Sometime this week House Republicans will unveil a short list of immigration “reform” priorities for the coming year. That release could take place at any moment.

The big headline so far is that there will be a legalization of all illegal aliens, with a path to citizenship for those brought here as young children, Backing in G.O.P. for Legal Status for Immigrants.

The big questions are why, and why now?

The Editors of National Review have an excellent editorial, Don’t Do It:

The House Republican leadership has been confronted by devilishly difficult tactical choices over the years. But what to do on the issue of immigration right now isn’t one of them. The correct course is easy and eminently achievable: Do nothing….

The basic tactical reason not to act now is that the last thing the party needs is a brutal intramural fight when it has been dealt a winning hand on Obamacare. It is not as though the public is clamoring for an immigration bill. Only 3 percent cited immigration as the biggest problem facing the country in a Gallup poll earlier this month. In the key contests that will decide partisan control of the Senate, Republican candidates are much more likely to be helped than hurt by refusing to sign onto any form of amnesty.

The other prudential reason not to act is that President Obama obviously can’t be trusted. Any immigration deal would have to trade enhanced enforcement for an amnesty. Since the president refuses to enforce key provisions of his own health-care law, let alone provisions of immigration law he finds uncongenial, he obviously can’t be relied on to follow up on his end of any bargain. It is hard to fathom how any Republican can possibly believe otherwise.

Finally, the path set out by the House leadership will — if the early reports are to be believed — represent bad policy. Unfortunately, many Republicans have convinced themselves that the key question is whether or not illegal immigrants eventually get citizenship, and insist that only a law that creates a “path to citizenship” is amnesty. They are wrong on both counts. The central question is whether illegal immigrants are allowed to work and live here legally. As soon as they are, that’s the amnesty. For most of these immigrants, eventual citizenship will be an afterthought.

Whatever the proposal is, it will not be enough to satisfy Democrats. Nothing short of complete and total amnesty, including extended family “reunifications,” will be enough.

Already, with rumors of the Republican proposal afloat, the demands are being made to jump higher. Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, a reliable conduit of Democratic Party thinking, already sets down the marker that any conditions on legalization are unacceptable:

Here’s the question: What will Republicans demand as a condition for legalization?

If their basic principle is that legalization will be contingent on undocumented immigrants paying back taxes and a fine, and on the Department of Homeland Security producing a border security plan (as in the Senate bill), that could be a real stepping stone to negotiations and possibly even something approximating comprehensive reform.

But if their basic principle is that legalization will only happen after various border security metrics being met — such as E-Verify being fully operational, or proof that 90 percent of border crossers must be being apprehended and 100 percent of the border must be being surveilled — then that’s going to be a very discouraging sign.

Update: Byron York notes:

A fight is coming. Perhaps the only people not fully engaged might be the broad majority of Americans, who don’t see any urgent need for reform. In a new survey from Pew, in which voters were asked what should be the top priority for the president and Congress, immigration reform ranked 16th out of 20. In a new poll from Gallup, just three percent named immigration as the nation’s most pressing issue.

After a look at those numbers, lawmakers might reasonably conclude it’s time to move on to something else. But don’t look for Washington to take the voters’ hint.


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