Senators Finish Immigration Bill, Opponents Come Together on Plan to Kill It

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Several thousand people rally in Washington, D.C. to show their support for immigration reform on April 10, 2013.
Photo: MICHAEL REYNOLDS

It looks like President Obama won't have to make good on his threats to release his own immigration bill. On Tuesday, the Senate's Gang of Eight finally filed their immigration plan, and President Obama embraced the bill following a meeting with Senators Chuck Schumer and John McCain, calling it "largely consistent" with his own principles. Obama added that it's "clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me," in a nod to the inclusion of "triggers" that call for border security improvements before undocumented immigrants can apply for citizenship. Obama urged the Senate to "quickly move this bill forward," and Schumer said, "He doesn't want to drag this out because that's the way bills get killed" — which happens to be exactly what the bill's opponents have in mind.

Rubio, who worked on the bill, has been saying for weeks that he wants there to be public hearings and plenty of debate on the bill, with his spokesman Alex Conant explaining, “We believe that the more public scrutiny this legislation receives, the better it will become.” Lawmakers and legislative aides tell the Washington Post that opponents of immigration reform would also like to draw out the process, with the opposite goal in mind. They're hoping that delays will give them time to add "poison pill" amendments that will destroy any bipartisan consensus on the bill, a strategy which helped kill the 2007 immigration reform plan.

On Tuesday, one lawmaker offered another more offensive reason for stalling on immigration reform. Congressman Steve King of Iowa told the National Review that the (baseless) speculation that the Boston bombing was carried out by a foreign national proves we can't get a handle on our immigration problem:

"We need to take a look at the visa-waiver program and wonder what we’re doing. If we can’t background-check people that are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we are going to background check the 11 to 20 million people that are here from who knows where?”

Gang of Eight senators were quick to shoot down the attempt to twist the tragedy into an excuse for giving up on their immigration bill. Rubio pointed out that we still know nothing about who was behind the attack, so "We should really be very cautious about using language that links these two things in any way." McCain offered some logic, noting that stalling won't fix the problem. "I would argue passage of comprehensive immigration will enhance our ability to keep our country secure," he said.