Immigration reformers want to bring the more than 10 million
undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. Border security hawks
want assurances that if they go along with that plan, they wont be
back in 10 years deciding whether or not to legalize 10 million
Whats Congress to do?
Figure out a trigger, where advances in border security are
deemed sufficient to trigger the beginning of the journey to
citizenship for the undocumented already in the country.
As immigration reform negotiations continue, determining just
what counts as a secure border and how to link that to plans for the
undocumented will be crucial. Indeed, finding an answer could
determine whether a bipartisan immigration reform measure reaches
President Obamas desk or if 2013 is yet another disappointment for
Historically, those on Capitol Hill have tried to craft a
delicate balance between border security and a path to legal status
for the undocumented. For example, the comprehensive immigration
reform legislation of the George W. Bush years, which ultimately
failed, had a series of triggers. In 2009, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) of
New York proposed more broadly that operational control of the
border must be achieved within a year of enactment of legislation.
But those triggers aren't helpful anymore. Most of the benchmarks
for border security established in 2007, for example, have been met
today, according to an analysis by the pro-reform advocacy group
Border patrol staffing north of 20,000? Check: there are more
than 21,000 agents on the border at present. Requirements for
unmanned drones and a variety of other observation methods? All are
at or above the 2007 requirements today. Fencing? Within eight miles
of the 2007 target.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said
on Tuesday that while the department lacks a single measure on which
to base a trigger and that a trigger based on any single measure
would be a bad idea all the data DHS collects point to a border
safer than ever before.
Some Democrats and immigration reform advocates take this to say
that the border is secure already and should not stand in the way of
the undocumented becoming US citizens even if further border
security measures are needed.
Republican reformers like Sen. John McCain of Arizona have a
slightly different view, holding that while the southern border
certainly is far improved from nearly a decade ago theres still
plenty of room for improvement. …