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From Gang of Eight, a border security trial balloon

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

A new column suggests that the Senate’s Gang of Eight bipartisan immigration reform team has decided to offer quick legalization to the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally — but only after the Department of Homeland Security promises to secure the border within a decade.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer writes that under the still-secret Gang of Eight plan, the 11 million immigrants currently in the country illegally will “get near-instant legalization — on the day, perhaps six to nine months after the bill is signed, when Homeland Security submits a plan (with required funding) to achieve within a decade 90 percent apprehension and 100 percent real-time surveillance.”

If Krauthammer’s information is correct, then the Gang has decided to offer legalization to all currently illegal immigrants on the strength of a border-security promise from the Department Homeland Security, whose chief, Janet Napolitano, has spent weeks arguing that the border is already secure.

But even that is a more stringent proposal than originally discussed.  On January 28, when Gang members unveiled an outline of their plan, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer said, “On day one of our bill, the people here without status who are not criminals or security risks will be able to live and work here legally.”  That idea — immediate, day-one legalization — set off protests from reform skeptics.

Most of the subsequent discussion in the press focused on a border security “trigger” that would precede a later step in the process, the path to citizenship.  But it was immediate legalization, offered with no requirement to prove increased border security, that threatened to cause problems for the Gang proposal.

Now there is Krauthammer’s revelation that immediate legalization won’t actually be immediate but will come after the promise from Napolitano to secure the border within the next decade.  Such a provision, if it is actually part of the Gang’s bill, is likely to be met with deep skepticism by reform opponents, and perhaps even some supporters.  There have been many pledges of increased border security in the past that never resulted in a secure border.  Will the Gang base its new plan on yet another promise?

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Byron York

Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner