Schumer: 'People Will Be Legalized,' Border Security After

In a little-noticed quote on last Sunday's Meet the Press, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--a member of the bipartisan so-called “Gang of Eight” pushing immigration reform--might have slipped up and admitted the “Gang” is not going to secure the border before giving 11 million illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

“So look, we've come to a basic agreement, which is that first, people will be legalized,” Schumer said. “In other words, not citizens, but they'll be allowed to work, come out of the shadows, travel. Then, we will make sure the border is secure.”

Meet the Press fill-in anchor Chuck Todd did not pick up on Schumer’s admission. But even later in the show, while interviewing Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, Todd admits that the Gang of Eight's original framework was supposed to be border security first, which would then “trigger” the pathway to citizenship.

CHUCK TODD: Senator Schumer would not tell us what this metrics and border security. This is your home state of Arizona. You've talked about--you've said that there are two sort of border sectors--in Arizona. One is the Yuma sector, one is the Tucson sector. And you say that Yuma has got it right. Well, what does that mean? That there is operational control. Can you explain what that means in layman's terms to the viewers out there?

FLAKE: Yes, I was in both the Yuma sector last week and the Tucson sector and there is a difference. In the Yuma sector--people still get through. But--our border patrol and other agents have a reasonable expectation of catching them. That's probably--the best explanation of what operational control means. You'll never stop everyone from coming through. And you have a lot of commerce, legal commerce that happens at the border as well. So when people talk about having a sealed border, we don't need a sealed border, we need a secure border. That's what we have in Yuma. We're just--quite a ways from that in the Tucson sector.

CHUCK TODD: And when that is done, that's when--would trigger the pathway to citizenship?

FLAKE: Yes. First, we've got to get to--as you mentioned, some kind of metrics--from the Department of Homeland Security. In a recent report that they had--increased apprehensions was used in one part of the report--to indicate that we had a better situation, in another part of the report, increased apprehensions--are--decreased apprehensions was used to demonstrate the same. So we've had trouble getting--good metrics out of the--Department of Homeland Security. We're going to have to have that before we move further.

The original framework the immigration group released in January also placed border security before a pathway to citizenship, the former being a “trigger” for the latter. The reason why the Gang of Eight has always agreed that border security had to happen before any pathway to citizenship steps took place is because the incentive for border security is lost the minute those 11 million or so illegal immigrants become legalized.

In his recent letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Pat Leahy, urging an open and transparent immigration reform process, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) made clear again that a pathway to citizenship would only come after border security was implemented. “A key feature of our bipartisan approach has been an insistence on meeting border security and other enforcement triggers before unauthorized immigrants can apply for permanent residence,” Rubio wrote.


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