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Border & Immigration

Immigration Reform's Wild Week

Last week — amid Boston, Texas, gun control and ricin — the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill was released in the middle of the night.

Although slow out the gate, the bipartisan bill is gaining momentum. During a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, senators Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) showed a deep confidence in lifespan of their bill.

They are not aiming for 61 votes, the necessary number to pass through the Senate, but rather an ambitious 70.


The bill’s future is not painted on the walls of the congressional house. In the coming days, the House Judiciary Committee is likely to introduce its own series of bills, focusing on “the temporary guest worker program, agriculture and E-Verify.”

But immigration reform has already found diverse allies like former vice presidential hopeful Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). He has been stumping for broad reform. Longtime immigration advocate Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-N.Y.), insists Ryan’s push for reform is genuine. Via, NBC Latino:

“(Ryan) is no Johnny-come-lately to the immigration issue, and has been an ally of mine and of Jeff Flake’s on immigration reform bills in the past.” Gutierrez also cited the fact that Ryan had previously worked for pro-immigration reform Republicans like Jack Kemp and Sam Brownback.

Back in the Senate, even in the wake of the Boston Marathon explosions, the bill that would put an estimated 11 million immigrants on the path to citizenship hasn’t suffered too much fallout, which could be a sign of its strength.

The most vocal detractors to emerge from Senate Judiciary committee hearings, senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) haven’t insisted on stopping the bill, but slowing down and taking a closer look at national security.

Under the Gang of Eight's bill, new measures would tighten security and errors like the misspelling of the Boston bomber's last name would have been prevented. Schumer argued at a hearing their bill would make the country safer. Via Univision:

"Under our bill everything would have to be passport or machine readable, so that type of mistake could not occur," Schumer said. "So if our bill were law, it could have been a pretty safe guess that the authorities would have known that Tsarnaev left to go to Russia and knew when he came back."

On Twitter, people using hashtag #amnesty share a more disgruntled point of view:

Hey #Gangof8, The laws we want are the laws we already have. Enforce them now and retroactively--Simple!

The beginnings of Gang of Eight’s bill emerged in the Senate gym. That’s where a pathway to citizenship and strict border security were first compromised. But in following months, conservatives pundits argue their half isn't really being met.

In the bill pathways for immigration cannot proceed without DHS creating a five-year plan to enact 100 percent surveillance and 90 percent effectiveness across the border.

This is how effectiveness is measured; it’s a little complex:

The federal government measures effectiveness using the total number of apprehensions, the total number of turnbacks — those are folks who crossed the border, saw an agent and turned back to Mexico — and the total number of gotaways, the estimate of how many got through. Let’s say the Tucson sector has 100 apprehensions in a given day. And let’s say 20 people were chased by an agent and ran back into Mexico. That’s 120. Now let’s say agents found that 10 people got away that day. Divide out those gotaways and you’re left with a 92 percent effectiveness rate.

And currently the border is meeting those standards. Tucson Sector is at 87 percent, Laredo 84 and Sand Diego is a 91 percent.

It’s up for debate if one effectiveness measurement can be universally applied across all of the border’s diverse sectors.

But as it stands, it really doesn’t matter. Immigration will march forward regardless if these security measurements are met. It’s measurement is not a crux. Detractors of the bill argue that the “trigger” is toothless, tipping a hat to the concerns of many without actually addressing it. Real Clear Politics puts it this way:

Schumer’s genius is to have placated Rubio not just with promises, but with new versions of old promises.

In the past week, the 844-page bill by the Gang of Eight is slowly becoming more clear as lawmakers, journalists and citizens digest the new provisions.

In the coming days, what to watch is the set of proposals that will come from the Republican House. They hope to evolve the national conversation, before it runs away without them.