You’ve got to love Chuck Schumer. The ever-helpful Senator has proposed that, since Republicans don’t trust President Obama to implement immigration reform legislation, they should pass legislation that kicks in after his term expires.
Speaker Boehner promptly dismissed the idea, noting that it would leave Obama with no incentive to enforce existing immigration laws during the final three years of his presidency. That’s a valid objection.
There is also the question of whether Republicans who want serious enforcement of immigration laws can trust Obama’s successor, be it Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden or, for that matter, Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan. Indeed, the sad truth is that no modern president, not even Ronald Reagan, has ever been serious about enforcing our immigration laws.
This doesn’t mean that Republicans should never back immigration legislation that goes beyond enforcement and visa programs. It means that they should never do so until the enforcement problem has been solved.
The Republican program should be: first enforcement legislation; second effective implementation of that legislation (including the defeat of legal challenges to it), judged by success in securing the border; and only then, third measures on behalf of those who are here illegally.
As Boehner suggests, the key is to keep the incentive to enforce in place for as long as possible. Passing a comprehensive bill removes that incentive before enforcement is achieved, regardless of who is president. We’ve seen how that works out.