Immigration Reform: How to Tell Whether McCain, Gang of Eight is Serious


Politico is reporting some details on what had been anticipated for a while: a Senate-based framework for so-called comprehensive immigration reform. Read some as vague. Politico says it looked at a five-page outline which it characterizes thus:

The sweeping proposal — agreed to in principle by eight senators — would seek to overhaul the legal immigrationsystem as well as create a pathway to citizenship for the nation's roughly 11 million illegal immigrants. But establishing that pathway would depend on whether the U.S. first implements stricter border enforcement measures and new rules ensuring immigrants have left the country in compliance with their visas. Young people brought to the country as children illegally and seasonal agriculture industry workers would be given a faster path to citizenship.

The broad agreement by the influential Gang of Eight senators amounts to the most serious bipartisan effort to act on the highly charged issue since George W. Bush's comprehensive measure was defeated in the Senate in 2007.

It remains to be seen if Obama will embrace the Senate effort, or how closely his own proposal hews to the Senate one. But the Senate proposal is expected to take precedence on Capitol Hill, given that bipartisan backing will be crucial to getting anything through the Democratic-controlled Senate — let alone the Republican-controlled House.

There's probably less here than meets the eye. The GOP is looking to fix some of its image problems with the Hispanic population (since the the 2004 presidential election, when George W. Bush pulled somewhere between 40 percent and about 45 percent of the Hispanic vote, it's all been downhill). Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) tells the Sunday morning shows, "We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours, for a variety of reasons, and we've got to understand that." He's right about that, but there's no reason to expect Republicans to do either the smart thing or the right thing. Long considered pro-immigrant, McNasty himself espoused stupid and anti-immigrant ads during his 2008 presidential bid, obviously in the hopes of securing the Minuteman-style voter.

Exactly where the Obama White House is on this is unclear. As Politico notes, "It remains to be seen if Obama will embrace the Senate effort, or how closely his own proposal hews to the Senate one." Except that we have a pretty good sense of where President Obama has been on immigration: He has deported record numbers of them and continues to spend record amounts of money on the agencies that harass them and employers who hire them. His election-year conversion to a humane policy toward children brought here illegally by their parents was a small sop to Hispanic voters against Mitt "Self-Deportation" Romney, who managed to drive John McCain's abysmal share of the latino vote even lower (Romney scored a pathetic 27 percent; McCain managed 31 percent).

Besides McCain, the Senate's "Gang of Eight" includes Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Michael Bennett (D-Colo). So there's some firepower there in terms of big deals. Senate newcomer Jeff Flake has a long history of pushing good immigration policy as a congressman from a border state (Arizona) and places such as Colorado and Illinois are massive magnets for newcomers, so that's all to the good. But there's also plenty of room for disaster (Menendez is facing mounting interest in his apparent dalliances with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, Schumer couldn't get along with newborn puppies, Lindsey Graham is no idea of a statesman, etc.).

To me, the biggest problem is even the way the vaguer than vague framework above is crafted: Path to citizenship (a.k.a. amnesty in the noxious phraseology of nativists), yes, but only after amping up border security. What does that even mean? The number of Border Patrol agents has doubled over the past seven years and deportations continue despite significant reductions in the number of people entering the country illegally. The feds spend more on just the policing efforts of the border than they do on all other federal law enforcement operations combined. Stricter border security? It's already here, amigo, so let's get on with the normalizing of folks who may have been living here for years and paying Social Security, Medicare, income, property, and sales taxes in high percentages. (About 60 percent of illegals pay income taxes and about two-thirds pay payroll taxes; they aren't undocumented—they have fake documents that funnel money to the government that they will never get back). We've already absorbed the 11 million or so illegal immigrants living in the country. They work among us, they pay taxes, and the families of those who don't already speak English learn our mother tongue (the one forced on us by Great Britain) at the same rate as past immigrants. Apart from schooling for kids (many of whom are actually American citizens) and emergency medical care, immigrants (legal and otherwise) are barred from most welfare programs, and they tend to break the law at lower rates than native-born Americans.

I think the most interesting indicator of how serious the senators are will revolve around their rhetoric. If they spend a lot of time talking about border security and employer-verification systems (reportedly a big part of any deal going forward), don't hold your breath for anything approaching reform. The government doesn't want to admit it, but except in totalitarian countries, they don't run the border. People come and go based on large-scale dynamics that simply overwhelm most nations' ability to control in-flows and out-flows of people. E-verify systems are a nightmare filled either with error rates that will harass thousands of innocent people and businesses or else be so porous all they will do is add a drag on hiring legally. If the senators start really working the Sunday shows and their constituents about how immigration benefits our economy and is the right thing to do from a historical and moral perspective, that will be the sign that they're meaning to take this across the finish line.

NEXT: Militants Set Fire to Ancient Manuscripts in Timbuktu

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. so what about the people who been following the cluster of a legal process? What happens to them?

    1. That’s a good question. I’m very much in favor of immigration reform, but any such talk should include the people who have been waiting in (or waiting for a chance in) our screwed up system in the first place.

      Really though, why is citizenship the biggest issue here? To me, the path to citizenship isn’t the worst thing about our immigration system (though I still think it’s terrible). The biggest issue is the ability to come here at all. If people could more easily come here to find work and leave as they wished, rather than having a government officials micromanage every person who comes here, I think that would solve a lot of the immigration problems we’ve been having.

      There seems to be this belief that everyone who comes here comes with the intent to become a citizen, but I think the biggest group of immigrants we’ve been getting have come to find work, not to stay here permanently. Just allowing the labor markets to work rather than trying to centrally plan them would be better than the system we have now, or any central-plan “reform” for that matter.

      1. “Really though, why is citizenship the biggest issue here?”

        Because those are the people who can deliver democrats votes.

    2. I assume that they get treated like the chumps that they are.

  2. While reform might be the right thing to do from a historical and moral perspective, it will have no favorable results for the Republican Party.

    The GOP will never again gain more than 30% of the Hispanic vote, diverse as that voting bloc may otherwise be.

    1. Sure. Just like how the Democrat’s stranglehold on the south will never be broken.

  3. Immigration is such a pain in the ass of an issue. While I am philosophically a proponent, it’s a kick in the balls because it’s going to create millions of hardcore statist voters who the Dems will be more than happy to pander to.

    1. Republicans should oppose the path to citizenship. Give the non-criminal illegals here amnesty. There US born children will (already) be citizens. The only reason for to include that issue in immigration reform is to create tens of millions of new socialist voters.

      Also, they should give work visas to anyone that wants one and is willing to pay a fee for it. And make ineligibility for any welfare program a condition of the work visa.

      1. Well, no. You either help those who are here become citizens, or they remain part of the permanent underclass subject to police abuse.

        Mass deportation only being an option if you’re a fascist POS.

        1. So the people who are trying to do it the right way are a bunch of chumps. Right? Phht! Just sneak in an sooner or later you’ll get amnesty. Legal immigrants are suckers.

          1. I never said anything like that.

          2. In other words, the existence of an injustice in one place does not justify the existence of injustice in another place.

            Or, in simple-speak, two wrongs don’t make a right.

            1. As long as there is a welfare state there cannot be open borders.

              1. Ahem

                Of course, in such societies the problem is not limited to immigration itself, but any form of population growth. Every new baby born to someone living in the country has a similar chance of ending up as a strain on the capital stock of the country. Banning immigration serves only to prolong the inevitable collapse, and that if one accepts this as justification for preventing people from immigrating into some country, then one must also, to be consistent, be in favor of restricting births of new babies.

                But so what? Why should we expect further limits on liberty for the sole purpose of propping up a hostile political and economic regime? What loyalty do we owe the sort of state that seeks to create a permanent class of dependent, unemployed and unemployable?

                1. THIS^

                  Let them come. If they are all welfare mooches (which they aren’t), then the welfare state will crash and burn.

                2. The newborn baby in the US will not be raised to be comfortable with the degree of statism present in Mexico, or any other third world kleptocrat shithole.

                  You guys are always talking about how the people have to be ready to rise up against tyranny… yet you want to import tons of people who clearly have no desire to stand up to tyranny.

                  1. The newborn baby in the US will not be raised to be comfortable with the degree of statism present in Mexico, or any other third world kleptocrat shithole.

                    The place they’re trying desperately to leave? They’re comfortable with that place?

                  2. No, those kids will just be raised to be comfortable with the level of socialism that we enjoy here in the states.

        2. Legal residency does not require citizenship and it also does not mean that they are a permanent underclass.

          1. Yeah, I know plenty of non-citizens who live here permanently and they don’t seem to be part of any underclass. If we didn’t have citizenship by birth, it might be a different matter.

    2. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not wanting statist immigrants. If you were looking for a roommate, would it be wrong to not want to live with a 400 pound roommate who wants to pool food costs to subsidize his gluttony? I don’t see why it’s so hard for some people to see this country as the home of citizens. We don’t live here for free.

      1. “America” isn’t your home. Your home is your home.

      2. It’s pretty hard to see something that is bullshit.

      3. Go pay your taxes. I’m hungry.

    3. dont worry. The republicans will be just as happy to pander to the statists.

  4. Border doors should be wide open to our Spanish speaking Amigos who wish to enjoy the comforts of Norte America. Their large families are needed to insure employers of a low cost workforce making Norte America globally competitive. Unfortunately rents will increase for those that prefer living in English speaking enclaves, but that is the price of progress.

    1. Is there a retard signal that goes up whenever there is an immigration related thread?

      1. Admit it: you miss LoneWacko.

  5. In a just world, McCain would be the junior senator and Flake the senior.

    1. In a just world, McCain would have retired or died by now.

      1. I was being charitable.

  6. Republicans will sell out their supporters and get exactly zero support from Hispanics for doing it because Hispanics don’t give a shit about immigration. They just want big government.

    1. Yep.

      Republicans got a smaller percentage of the Hispanic vote in the 80s after Reagan did his amnesty.

    2. Yep.

      Republicans got a smaller percentage of the Hispanic vote in the 80s after Reagan did his amnesty.

      1. Bingo. Hispanics hate the GOP because of amnesty, not in spite of it. If the GOP does it twice, Hispanics will hate it even more. It might be good policy, but it will be bad for the GOP.

    3. The two republicans that got the largest share of the Hispanic vote were Nixon and Bush the lessor. So apparently Reason wants those kind of republican presidents.

    4. Agreed. Immigration reform is just code for increasing the Democrat voter base, and any libertarian who doesn’t think that is at the heart of it is just hopelessly naive. Democrats don’t want open immigration. They want power. If they managed to overcome the Republicans entirely they’d quickly close the borders. It’s a means to an end.

      1. So what? I don’t think establishment Republicans think much of gun rights, either. But guess what? They want the votes and money from those people who do think it’s important.

        1. But immigration doesn’t get them any votes. So why should they do it?

      2. As a libertarian I care about freeing the labor market not what team thinks they benefit.

        1. Tunnel meet vision.

        2. Yep. As soon as you start judging the merits of major policy matters based on which team will benefit the most, you are the problem.

          1. Wanting policies to actually be implemented that increase freedom makes you a problem? Remind me, how many elections has the LP won again?

            1. Wanting policies to actually be implemented that increase freedom makes you a problem? Remind me, how many elections has the LP won again?

              How many times have either of the two major parties done something that increases freedom?

              1. Rarely, but still more than zero.

            2. If you think the restrictions on freedom required to prohibit illegal immigration are policies whose implementation increase freedom, then you, sir, are a blithering idiot.

              1. There are times you have to restrict small freedoms to save bigger ones.

                If these are wonderful prospective lovers of liberty crossing the border, why aren’t they making Mexico a free country?

                1. There are times you have to restrict smallyour freedoms to save bigger onesmy privleges.


                2. If these are wonderful prospective lovers of liberty crossing the border, why aren’t they making Mexico a free country

                  Maybe there aren’t enough of them?

                  Plenty of freedom loving Cubans came to America. Castro even let a lot of them go so he wouldn’t have to deal with them.

              2. baseless assumption and ad hominem. try again.

                1. for tarran

          2. +1 intertoobz

            1. That was for Zeb, NOT the Team Red interloper.

              1. FDA loves his echo chamber.

                1. At least the echos do not ring of stupid.

  7. We need more Mexicans becoming American Citizens so we can get more people who in the 2012 Mexican Presidential Elections voted over 70% in favor of the two parties which are openly socialist

  8. ANKUR BAYBEEZ!!!!!11!

    It seems to me that it’s impossible to have a reasoned discussion re: immigration any more. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try – there are legitimate points on all sides of the argument. I’ve certainly come around from “SECURE THE BORDERS”. and I’m pretty good with “throw open the fucking doors”. BUT – only if “no social programs”. Which will never happen.

    So I’m a bit conflicted. Do I think this congress and administration are “serious” about immigration “reform”? I think they’re as serious as they are about cutting spending and reducing the deficit. So – no.

  9. “Besides McCain, the senate’s gang of eight includes,… Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer”

    Holy. Sh#t. This is all I needed to read to be certain this will be a disaster of colossal proportions for limited government proponents everywhere.

  10. Libertarian ideal runs into harsh reality. Unfettered immigration means more statist politicians of both parties. So we’ll have a libertarian voting system…and a statist everything else?

    Is their an upside to any of this?

    1. *immigration system, not voting system

      1. Party over principle. It’s the Republican way…oh, wait, it’s the Democrat way as well.

        Look America, something in common.

        1. Its called politics, harsh reality, brick wall, disillusionment, whatever.

          1. Yep. The root of all evil in America. By all means let’s perpetuate it.

    2. So… you had to burn the village to save it?

      One of the difficult things about respecting people’s rights is that you have to respect the rights even of your political enemies.

      1. I don’t believe touching American soil gives you the right to vote.

      2. Except there is no right to cross international borders.

        And it’s self-destructive for a relatively libertarian society to allow the immigration of statists and people comfortable with statism.

        1. Another Red state heard from. Where is Red T o n y? We’ll make it a quorum.

        2. I think there might be a right to cross international borders. But that is not what I am talking about. I am responding to the apparent argument that the particular political views of immigrants is a good reason to restrict immigration.

          1. The survival of a libertarian democracy is dependent on the political community having certain political views.

            The question is, do you care about actually having a stable libertarian democracy, or seeing your favorite policies implemented for six months or so before the statists take over.

            1. The survival of a libertarian democracy is dependent on the political community having certain political views.

              The survival of a libertarian democracy is dependent on have a community of no larger than ~100 people. There is no way it is even remotely possible in a country of 300+ million people.

            2. The statists have taken over. I just want to push things in the right direction.

          2. Citizenship, not immigration. Two different things. The article deals with giving citizenship to aliens. That is fairly different than allowing open immigration.

            1. That is a worthwhile distinction. But I still say that neither immigration status or citizenship should require a political purity test.

  11. Fuck path to citizenship. How about just putting in a path to legal residency for current illegal residents and let them follow the path all the other people with green cards have to follow.

    1. Argument against that is it creates a designated underclass or sub-class of citizens. That strikes most people as being un-American, even if their is merit to the idea.

      1. What? No. Legal residents have all the same civil rights except voting. They are no more an underclass than convicted felons, and nobody seems to give a shit about making more of those.

        There is a well-defined path in place from going to resident to citizen if the resident wishes to. Shit. I went a semester in engineering grad school. There were more legal residents than citizens in my program. They were split 50/50 on staying or going home.

        1. Nope. Legal residents can be deported if they break the law, and have limited 1st, 2nd, and 4th amendment rights (the “right of the people” parts, as they are not part of the people).

          1. Fair enough. So they compare favorably to the felon class, which, again, you and most politicians seem to have no problem with creating more of or whether felons are an intentionally or accidentally created underclass.

            1. I prefer fewer laws (but ruthlessly enforced) so I don’t know where you’re getting that I want to increase the felon class. I certainly oppose the WoD which is where most of our felons come from.

          2. This is not true. The Constitution applies to everyone in U.S. jurisdiction. It actually says that within the language of the document. They do not lose their civil rights by being legal residents instead of citizens. They simply may not vote.

            Just because state or local laws have made it hard or impossible for some legal residents to use their second amendment rights, does not mean those are being legally applied. And being deported would be part of sentencing. The right of due process still exists. Again, if being applied illegally by the states or localities, that should be challenged by anyone interested in doing so.

            What 1st Amendment rights are infringed upon legal residents that are also not infringed upon us U.S. citizens?

            1. The Constitution applies to everyone in U.S. jurisdiction. It actually says that within the language of the document.

              The Constitution itself is applicable to the federal government.

              The amendments in the BoR are phrased differently depending on whether the right is restricted to citizens or not. Some are specifically a “right of the people” — that is, of members of the political community (“We the People”) — while others are just “freedom” or “right” without any modification. So the freedom of speech and religion and the right to an attorney are possessed by anyone within the jurisdiction, while the right to assembly, to bear arms, to be secure from unreasonable searches, are only enjoyed by citizens.

      2. Ignoring illegal immigrants and letting them stay while not granting them legal residency creates an underclass. Legal residents don’t have those problems.

        1. I agree, but I doubt changing the law to say “you can stay, but can’t vote” might not exactly go over well with Democrats, or possibly with immigrants.

          1. No. The law should be, “you can stay, but you have to wait for everyone who was legally in the system before this change takes effect before you can vote.”

            Also, if I’m god-emperor for today, I’m making them disclose and settle with the IRS (no penalty, but all owed taxes paid) before they can get in line for permanent residency. Just because I want to make sure they hate the government on their way to citizenship. If I really wanted to fuck the states over, I’d make sure they cleared their state burden, thus making non-income tax states immediately desirable.

        2. Legal residents don’t have those problems.

          False. Remember the kerfuffle where Andy Sullivan was able to avoid deportation after getting caught with weed a year or so ago?

          1. Remember when 1M black males a year faced felony conviction for getting caught with weed?

            1. Remember when they weren’t threatened with deportation to Liberia?

              1. Being threatened with deportation is no different than being threatened with jail, aside from the part where I’d gladly take deportation every time, assuming you want to deport me to one of the countries my ancestors are from and not North Korea.

  12. There seems to be this belief that everyone who comes here comes with the intent to become a citizen

    Or, worse, that they SHOULD intend to become citizens. That does not mean I am opposed to granting citizenship, but that I believe a lot of people caught in the immigration machinery would be perfectly content to live and work here while retaining their citizenship of birth, and at some point return home.

    I absolutely believe that we should be making “guest worker” status easy to get.

    1. Yes. This is a better statement of what I believe than I managed above.

    2. This is the right answer. Let people come to work. No welfare, etc. Citizenship should be available to those who really want to commit, but not particularly encouraged or discouraged.

    3. Listen, we can’t have foreigners returning back to their birth countries with all of our money.

  13. The GOP will never again gain more than 30% of the Hispanic vote

    And whom should they blame for that?

    1. Rick Perry!

  14. In a just world, McCain would have retired or died by now.

    In a just world, McCain would be loading trucks in one of his wife’s beer distributorships.

    1. In a just world, people like Jeff Flake would never have to team up with people like Chuck Schumer and John McCain.

  15. Where’s our little pal Liberty to tell us how naive we are to not fear and despise the brown hordes?

    1. He been sent off to think of another ironic handle to troll under.

      1. *He’s* sigh

  16. So the lesson is, you can break the law at will so long as the people of your same ethnicity vote in sufficient numbers against those who uphold the law.

    If only I could convince my fellow Irish-Americans to vote against anyone who thinks we should enforce speed limits and stop sign laws against those of Irish descent, we could finally end this horrible injustice.

    The Hispanic community should be ashamed of themselves.

    1. Ah yes the solution to our ancestors’ mistreatment at the hands of the government is to ensure everyone has to endure mistreatment at the hands of the government.

    2. What? I think that the lesson is that if millions of people break a law that is practically unenforceable, most of them aren’t going to get caught. And the law ought to be reexamined.

      1. Practically unenforceable and immoral.

      2. It is enforceable, the feds just don’t want to enforce it because Hispanic voters will punish them.

        The feds just went to court to prevent state LEOs from helping with enforcement, for god’s sake.

    3. The Hispanic community should be ashamed of themselves.

      This bullshit is coming from race baiting socialists.

      Not the Hispanic community

      1. The Hispanic community just voted overwhelmingly for the guy who just blatantly pandered to the illegal immigrants.

        1. That’s patently false. The majority of Hispanics didn’t vote

  17. “It is enforceable”

    Maybe with a total surveillance police state. Even then I’d have my doubts.

    1. I disagree.

      And if that were true, even your favored “criminal background check/communicable disease” filter is going to be thwarted by diseased and criminal immigration away from official points of entry.

      1. And how will that be made better by allowing fewer people to enter legally?

  18. If all citizens had a number tattooed on their arms, it would be easier to keep track of who’s who.

  19. Any new amnesty needs to be smarter than the first one. After the first amnesty, we ended up with more people in the USA illegally than before it. We should be trying to recreate the situation we had *before* we beefed up border patrol, where workers could come and go as they pleased, and kept their families in their home country.

    The one requirement for a work visa should be to show that your family is not in the USA.

    1. That was the Bracero program, which the unions destroyed in the 1960s. Thank Cesar Chavez for our immigration issues.

      1. 1950s, sorry.

    2. Do you really think that would be allowed to work?

      I can already imagine the attack ads if a policy like that was even mentioned.

      1. GWB had a guest worker plan that was similar, but both left and right hated it for different reasons.

  20. I disagree.



  21. Unfortunately, the proposal does nothing to address the single biggest problem with the current immigration system: the labor certification process. All it does is increase the number of visas available, and put a bandaid on the illegal immigration problem by offering paths to citizenship. It doesn’t address the underlying REASONS for illegal immigration. Increasing the number of visa available may make wait lists shorter, but will not change the fact that there is no legal path to immigration for most of the people entering illegally. You’ll still need a close relative or a college degree at a minimum to qualify for a most visas.

    This proposal doesn’t solve *anything*. It is NOT “comprehensive” immigratoin reform. it is a set of cheap tweaks that leaves the essential features of the current immigration system completely intact.

  22. Sounds like Gang of 7 plus Jeff Flake.

  23. Rubio is behind this? All right… Rand Paul just moved up one notch in the 2016 primary rankings.

    1. Rubio was ahead of Paul on your rankings before this?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.