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Playing Immigration Reform Skeptics for Fools

7:18 AM, Jan 30, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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The Wall Street Journal reports that some House Republican leaders:

are looking to give illegal immigrants legal status right away, with the chance for a green card—and citizenship—down the line....First, illegal immigrants would be offered a “probationary” status, allowing them to work while the government tightened border security and interior enforcement. Officials have explained that this would allow people to work legally while they wait for permanent legal status. (Officials have explained that this group could revert to illegal status if enforcement benchmarks are not met.)

Leave aside the question of the overall merits of this approach. Focus on the parenthetical: "Officials have explained that this group could revert to illegal status if enforcement benchmarks are not met."

One hopes the Journal has this wrong. Such a provision would presumably be intended as a sop to immigration "reform" skeptics. But it's ludicrous. After all, is it plausible, and would it even be fair, to force legalized working immigrants to "revert" to illegal status just because some bureaucrats haven't met certain arbitrary benchmarks? The forced "reversion" would never happen, and it shouldn't.

So why would it be part of the House leaders' immigration proposal? They can't believe it's either a good or a realistic idea. Indeed it's a gesture whose mean-spiritedness could do more damage to the effort to build good will among Latinos than the simple refusal to bring up any immigration bill. But, leadership seems to think, conservatives—and immigration skeptics more broadly—could be mollified by this make-believe tough-sounding provision long enough to suspend their disbelief in "comprehensive immigration reform."

Surely leadership doesn't really believe their colleagues in the House and conservatives around the country are such fools?

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