When Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., made the rounds on conservative talk radio pitching his immigration reform plan to the base of the Republican Party, he made heightened border security the centerpiece of his pitch. “If, in fact, this bill does not have real triggers in there,” Rubio told Rush Limbaugh in January, “if there is not language in this bill that guarantees that nothing else will happen unless these enforcement mechanisms are in place, I won’t support it.”
But just two weeks later, it became abundantly clear that one party already thought the borders were perfectly secure. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress in mid-February that, “Our borders have, in fact, never been stronger.”
And then yesterday, at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast she went a step further. “We’re confident that the border is as secure as it’s ever been,” Napolitano said, echoing her previous congressional testimony. But she also added, “Once people really look at the whole system and how it works, relying on one thing as a so-called trigger is not the way to go.”
Asked to clarify Napolitano’s statement during the White House press briefing, President Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney said, “Certainly the facts are there when it comes to the resources that have been applied to border security — the doubling of border security agents, as well as the other metrics that you will often hear Secretary Napolitano or others discuss. … And I would note … the progress that has been made on this very important issue, border security… many of the metrics that were put forward then have been met — the goals and the targets that were said to have to be achieved before we could move forward have been met.”
This puts Rubio and the rest of the Republicans in the Gang of Ocho in a tough spot. Either they agree with Napolitano and the White House that the borders are already secure and no new “triggers” need to be met, or they agree with Limbaugh and the conservative base that our borders are not secure and more needs to be done. It is a simple factual dispute. They cannot have it both ways.
Back in January, Rubio promised Limbaugh, “To the point of them not wanting to do the security, look, all I can tell you is that that’s a big issue for me and that’s why I’m involved in this process. I have no reason to believe it won’t happen, but if it doesn’t, then I’ll come back to you and say, ‘Look, it didn’t. We tried. They put that in the principles, but then they drafted a bill that didn’t do it, and I couldn’t support it.’”
We still have not seen any legislation from the Gang of Ocho. But when we do, it better have real border security triggers that have not already been met. Otherwise, Rubio must follow through on his promise and walk away.
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