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KRAUTHAMMER: The lesser of two evils

<WC1>The president suggested he would hold off introducing his own immigration bill as long as bipartisan Senate negotiations were proceeding apace — until his own immigration bill mysteriously leaked precisely as bipartisan Senate negotiations were proceeding apace.

A naked political maneuver and a blunt warning to Republicans: Finish that immigration deal in Congress or I'll propose something I know you can't accept — and flog the issue mercilessly next year to win back the House.

John McCain responded (correctly) that President <WC>Barack <WC1>Obama was creating a <WC>"<WC1>cudgel<WC>"<WC1> to gain <WC>"<WC1>political advantage in the next election.<WC>"<WC1> Marco Rubio, a chief architect of the Senate bill, called Obama's alternative dead on arrival.

They doth protest quite a lot. Especially because on the single most important issue — instant amnesty — there is no real difference between the proposals.

Rubio calls it <WC>"<WC1>probationary legal status.<WC>"<WC1> Obama uses the term <WC>"<WC1>lawful prospective immigrant.<WC>"<WC1> But both would instantly legalize the 11 million illegal immigrants living here today. The moment either bill is signed, the 11 million become eligible for legal residence, the right to work and relief from the prospect of deportation.

Their life in the shadows is over, which is what matters to them above all. Call the status probationary or prospective but, in reality, it is permanent. There is no conceivable circumstance (short of criminality) under which the instant legalization would be revoked.

This is bad policy. It repeats the 1986 immigration reform that legalized (the then) 3 million while promising border enforcement — which was never carried out. Which opened the door to today's 11 million. And to the next 11 million as soon as the ink is dry on this reform.

The better policy would be enforcement first, followed by amnesty. Yes, amnesty. But only when we have assured that these 11 million constitute the last cohort.

How to assure that? With three obvious enforcement measures: (a) a universal E-Verify system by which employers must check the legal status of all their hires, (b) an effective system for tracking those who have overstayed their visas, and (c) closure of the southern border, mainly with the kind of triple fence that has proved so successful near San Diego.

If legalization would go into effect only when these conditions are met, there would be overwhelming bipartisan pressure to get enforcement done as quickly as possible.


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