A Simple Test for Rubio

A Litmus Test for the Litmus Test: Has Marco Rubio really changed his mind and abandoned the principles behind his old “Gang of 8” immigration amnesty bill in favor of a ‘secure the border first’ approach? Or has he simply changed tactics, preferring to cut the Gang of 8 bill up into pieces and pass them separately?

There’s a fast, cheap, simple test to find out the answer! It’s to ask Rubio this question:

You say the American people have to be shown that border security measures (like a fence, and the e-Verify computerized system for checking legal status in hiring) are in place and working before we begin debating what to do about the 11 million or more who are here illegally. But do you rule out any temporary, probationary or provisional legalization or authorization before the border security measures are fully in place — having survived legal challenge — and are shown to be working?

Why is this crucial? Because the central issue in the mainstream immigration debate is whether legalization will come before enforcement measures take effect.  If legalization comes first, skeptics argue, the enforcement will never take effect as immigration activists and their lawyers move to block the border wall, etc. That is what happened, basically, with the 1986 reform legislation — legalization happened but promised enforcement measures were blocked or never materialized.  Without added enforcement, the argument goes, there’s no assurance we won’t get another, new wave of illegals drawn by the expectation that they, too, will eventually be legalized like the preceding waves.

But if legalization really can’t happen until after enforcement is in place, then the pressure for legalization from potential beneficiaries will guarantee the enforcement measures are actually implemented — and we should able to stop the next wave.

That idea — ‘enforcement first’ — seems reasonable enough but has been a total deal-breaker for Democrats and immigration activists. They argue that anti-amnesty types will never be satisfied by any level of enforcement. Anti-amnesty types suspect the real reason for the hang-up is that activists and their backers don’t want to stop future waves of illegal immigrants –– out of ethnic solidarity, or a desire for inexpensive labor, or what appears to be a majority Mexican belief that the U.S. simply has no right to enforce its Southern border against Mexican nationals who want to come North.

The Gang of 8, which included Rubio, avoided “enforcement first” with a clever trick: Illegals would indeed be legalized first –a few months after the bill passed — but only on a “provisional” basis. They wouldn’t be able to get permanent legal status until various (in practice, ephemeral) enforcement benchmarks had been reached.  The set-up was a scam at its core because even “provisional” legal status would shift the balance of power firmly in favor of those trying to undermine enforcement. After all, if the wall wasn’t built, or e-Verify wasn’t implemented, were the millions of “provisional” work permits already given going to be revoked? Answer: No. The ACLU, La Raza and Democratic pols would in practice, be free to try to stop enforcement in the courts and the bureaucracy. Soon they’d have millions more new illegal immigrants to amnesty.

The Gang of 8’s scam isn’t dead. Speaker Paul Ryan’s immigration plan — posted on his web site — repeats it, granting quick “probationary status” and leaving only the transition to permanent legal status contingent on enforcement.

Does Rubio’s plan continue the scam as well? That’s the crucial question. It’s hard to tell, from his recent pronouncements.  Rubio’s good at hiding the ball — he doesn’t address the “when, exactly, are they first legalized” issue head on. If you hear him on Hannity, it sounds like he hasn’t ruled out some sort of instant “temporary” legalization. But if you carefully parse his words on NPR, it sure seems (at 1:23) like he says illegals can come forward and apply for permits only “after” the enforcement has actually happened. [Update: The same goes for his answers to The Guardian a month ago.] Is that what he meant?

I’ve asked his office. Others should ask him too.  We shouldn’t have to parse words. The fact that he’s left the answer as vague as he has until now suggests what the answer is. I think I know what the answer is! But politicians sometimes can be nailed down to positions they don’t want to take. And the remote possibility that Rubio’s actually had some sort of conveniently timed conversion experience shouldn’t be completely dismissed — it would, after all, unlock the path to the Republican nomination for him.

I’ll let you know the answer when/if I get it.  (You can ask me then if I believe it.) If Rubio persists in trying to fudge this litmus test, we’ll be able to safely conclude he hasn’t ruled out a Gang-of-8 scam along the lines of Paul Ryan’s proposal. And he’ll only move further in that direction if he gets the nomination and starts his big Latino play.

Theranos should have had a test this simple and effective!

P.S..: The same test works for Cruz, who also says he will “secure the border first.”

Update: No answer from Rubio’s press office (as of Saturday 11/14).