It is infuriating to watch the usual suspects in the Senate GOP punt away immigration reform by refusing –absolutely refusing– to listen to the grassroots activists and public voices of the party on the issue of border security. Senator Rubio is being unfairly tagged with bringing down the immigration reform bill when it is increasingly obvious that his efforts to bring about border security are being blocked by Republican senators who will not embrace a serious fence-extension effort.
The latest to emerge with a non-starter substitute for a long, double-sided fence is Tennessee’s Bob Corker, usually one of the smart guys, who is instead pushing thousands of new border security agents as the answer. It isn’t the answer and it hasn’t been the demand of any critic of immigration reform. The GOP grassroots don’t want increased numbers of border patrol agents because that is the sort of metric that can be reduced next week or next year or told to do other things beside patrol the southern border. Like radar that can be turned off and drones that can be grounded, all enforcement enhancements that are not preceded by long, strong and high double fencing with access roads appear as just head-fakes on a bill not serious about preventing a third wave of illegal immigration and more importantly providing security against terrorists and narco-trafficking.
John McCain ran for re-election in 2010 on the slogan “Finish the dang fence.” He did so because he knew that is what voters demanded, what they understood as the real deal –the visible expression of national resolve to control borders. The opposite is also true: Failure to mandate the construction of hundreds of miles of new double-fencing as a trigger to regularization sends the message that the immigration reform bill isn’t serious about border security.
Senator Corker and all the other Republicans have to figure this out soon, and Senator Rubio should be preparing to walk away if they don’t: No one trusts D.C. to do anything that cannot be seen and touched, measured and photographed. That deep distrust is well-founded since the border security 2006 bill passed and called for the construction of 700 miles of double fencing and 36 miles were built. Fool me once….
The stubborn refusal of four to six members of the Senate GOP to do what the center-right demands be done will end up crashing this necessary effort immigration reform, another Beltway-driven political train wreck. If a handful of senators can kill the party’s majority desire to reform the immigration laws, they have no one but themselves to blame for the collapse of the effort. Just like the 2007 collapse, the 2013 collapse will be because insiders listened only to each other and appeared only on the Sunday talk shows, refusing to ever hear what was being said or to act on their party’s majority sentiment.
Simple truth: An immigration reform bill with real fencing provisions passes the Senate and the House. One without such provisions dies. As I wrote on Monday, it is Senator Schumer’s choice. It is also John McCain’s and Lindsey Graham’s and Bob Corker’s choice. They appear to want to lose the bill rather than admit the point that Senator McCain had it right in 2010.
UPDATE: Byron York reports that the Corker amendment will have fencing provisions. I hope Byron is right, and that those provisions are at least the equal of John Thune’s proposal with regard to distance and the presence of a trigger. If the GOP senators want to reverse the momentum, they will go beyond the 700 miles of new fencing and assure that the language leaves no doubt as to when and where the new fencing gets built. Fingers crossed, but far from hopeful….