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As the pundits swoon over bipartisanship and Senate Republicans jump all over themselves to say that yes, they support the latest blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform, they seem to be mostly forgetting the teeny, tiny detail that can derail the whole thing—a pathway to citizenship that would depend upon:
... a commission of governors, law enforcement officials and community leaders from border states that would assess when border security measures had been completed.
And therein lies the rub. No one seems to agree on what kind of power this commission would have in determining when our borders are forevermore secure, thus opening up that elusive pathway to citizenship. Democratic senators say it would have an "advisory" role, while Republicans insist that:
[W]e have to make sure that the way this law is structured, [it] ensures — guarantees — that the enforcement things happen.... Yes. That's absolutely one of the key standards I bring, it's one of the key parts of our principles.
So which is it? No one seems to be sure, but the fact is, it can be the poison pill that kills any kind of immigration reform. If the only pathway to citizenship is getting an A-okay from a commission that will include Arizona's bigoted Gov. Jan Brewer—champion of SB1070, the vile walking-while-brown law—then the legislation will be nothing but a fig leaf for Republicans heading into the 2014 elections, and every Democrat should oppose it.
Granted, any legislation is probably DOA once it hits the House anyway, because let's face it, there are House Republicans who are two steps shy of requiring suspicious-looking brown people to sew a sombrero on their clothes. But do you think they would even consider anything less than a commission—that would include the nutcase who imagines headless corpses littering the desert—having the final say on when our borders are secure? No way.
The bottom line is, we don't know—and Republicans certainly aren't saying—exactly what power this commission would have. But they were certainly quick to disagree with their Democratic counterparts who said it would only have an advisory role. And without a real pathway to citizenship, any legislation masquerading as immigration reform would be meaningless.