A bipartisan group of senators made big news on Monday when they officially revealed a proposal to overhaul the country’s broken immigration system.
Five of the so-called “gang of eight,” including Democrats Chuck Schumer, Bob Menendez, Dick Durbin and Republicans John McCain and Marco Rubio, appeared at a press conference and expressed optimism that their legislation would pass the House and Senate. Schumer said it could pass as early as spring.
But will the bill—which includes a pathway for citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country—have real teeth? And will the Republicans in the House be willing to go along with the plan?
“The very fact that it’s a bipartisan effort and the very fact that Republican senators are now supporting this earned pathway to citizenship or legalization is a tremendous, tremendous about face from where our immigration policy has been,” California Democrat Linda Sanchez told Hardball’s Chris Matthews on Monday. “I’m very hopeful.”
Matthews was less optimistic, pointing to the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli immigration act (which gave amnesty to several million illegal residents) that, according to the host, “was a joke” because it didn’t have sufficient mechanisms for enforcement. “It looked nice and got some people here legally, but it never solved the problem of illegal immigration,” he said.
Stephanie Cutter, former Obama campaign deputy manager, said the details are yet to come but that the plan “does have some real teeth in it.” And Sanchez pointed out that enforcement is being tied in the plan to the pathway for citizenship.
Matthews wasn’t convinced. “My concern is a government that cannot enforce its laws begins to crumble and our failure to have an honest, open progressive immigration policy has been a disaster and it’s not good for the future of our government that it can’t do the job of enforcing its own borders, which is essential to any country on this planet,” he said.
Cutter argued that the Senate, along with business and labor communities, truly wants meaningful reform.
“I don’t believe any of those groups want it,” insisted Matthews. "They want cheap, free labor. Democrats want support by not offending anybody in the Latino community. Nobody really wants to get this done. I think John McCain does because he’d like to get re-elected again.”