In a matter of hours, the Senate is going to pass a landmark piece of legislation aimed at fixing the nation's hapless immigration system. It's not the best bill, but it addresses a huge range of problems plaguing the current system. You could even argue that the mere fact of its existence is a major feat.
So naturally, House Republicans are signalling that they will not even consider it. Instead, they plan to introduce their own immigration bill, or possibly a series of them. And while the Senate bill mostly resisted the wing-nuttery associated with words like “amnesty,” House conservatives assure us theirs will not. Here are four ideas, broadly rejected by immigration experts, that the House is about to inject into the immigration debate.
Undocumented immigrants as nefarious criminals
The Senate bill acknowledges that undocumented immigrants are in violation of the law by preventing them from obtaining a green card for at least 10 years; they could not become full citizens for 13. But in the House, the wait, and the requirement to pay back taxes, appear inadequate. Conservatives there are floating a bill that would require nearly all 11 million of them to appear before a federal judge and plead guilty of breaking the law—at a giant expense and creating a backlog of the already-troubled court system—whereby they would be placed on probation.
The dreaded "trigger"
The House conservatives who are even open to a path to citizenship favor linking it to a series of triggers—like requiring a very high apprehension rate of illegal border crossings. The Senate majority treated attempts to insert that kind of trigger in the Gang of Eight bill like a nonstarter. (A high apprehension rate, in that bill, is nevertheless a goal). The bill that took shape in the Senate has some tough triggers now; it prevents any undocumented immigrants from applying for a green card until the E-Verify system for employers is in use nationwide. But reform advocates warn that stricter triggers would ensure that the 11 million undocumented immigrants here today indefinitely reside in a state of legal limbo.
The border needs securing
Initially, architects of the Gang of Eight bill thought it preposterous that the heavily militarized border needed more “securing.” But to try to attract the House Republicans, they eventually accepted a deal to nearly double current Border Patrols, by 20,000—“almost overkill,” in the words of Sen. Bob Corker. Turns out House conservatives didn't care. Without those triggers, Rep. Raul Labrador said Wednesday, extra boots on the ground don't matter. And despite the fact that many border dwellers detest the fence and the militarization of their communities, the House still intends to advance their own, still vague plans to “secure the border” before a path to citizenship can begin.
Immigration reform will cost billions
A recent CBO report showed that immigration reform would save the U.S. economy billions. But although that was supposed to increase support of the Gang of Eight bill, many Republicans in the House just don't believe it. Some even choose to believe a Heritage Foundation estimate—roundly panned even before its author was revealed to be a serial racist—that argued immigration reform would cost the U.S. economy $6.3 trillion.
Molly Redden is a staff writer for The New Republic. Follow her on Twitter @mtredden.