Rather than letting the gun-control bill get all the glory, on Tuesday evening aides said the Senate’s bipartisan immigration deal could be unveiled as soon as Thursday. Sources tell Politico that the Gang of Eight will hold a hearing on the legislation next Wednesday, but while the eight senators are finally in agreement (a month after their original deadline), the announcement will just kick off a new, lengthy phase of immigration squabbling. Marco Rubio is calling for weeks of debate and “multiple public hearings,” and the bill is said to require border security improvements before offering a pathway to citizenship, which the Obama administration has suggested it won’t support.
The Judiciary Committee isn’t expected to markup the bill until May 6 at the earliest, and Rubio spokesman Alex Conant says that the senator “has said from the outset that we will not rush this process.” He added, “We believe that the more public scrutiny this legislation receives, the better it will become.”
The border security provision is sure to be one topic that gets plenty of attention. People familiar with the Gang of Eight’s plan tell The Wall Street Journal that undocumented immigrants won’t be able to qualify for green cards until 100 percent of the country’s southern border is under surveillance and 90 percent of people crossing illegally at “high risk” sections are being caught by law enforcement. Those sources did not explain where these “high-risk” areas are, and it’s unclear what the lawmakers consider adequate surveillance. Depending on their definition, meeting those goals could take years. In the meantime, undocumented immigrants would be granted probationary status, if they pass a criminal background check, pay a fine, and meet other requirements.
Democrats worry that a border security requirement would just create another indefinite wait for those seeking legal status. “Regardless of how much additional effort we put in on the borders, we don’t want to make this earned pathway to citizenship a situation in which it’s put off further and further into the future,” Obama told Telemundo last month, adding, “There needs to be a certain path for how people can get legal in this country, even as we also work on these strong border security issues.” On Fox News Sunday, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer sidestepped two questions about whether President Obama would sign a bill that includes a border security trigger, but it sounds like they’ll have plenty of time to figure out if that’s a dealbreaker.