Over the weekend, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) was quick to deny claims that he may be getting soft on the border security proviso of the bipartisan blueprint presented last week. His insistence that he stands firm on border security demonstrates the continued importance of this component of immigration reform, which will likely prove integral to any successful overhaul legislation.
Underscoring the fragile nature of the bipartisan talks, Schumer aides said Friday that the senator is completely on board with the idea — backed by GOP senators — that the border must first be effectively secured before the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants can obtain permanent legal status, including citizenship.
“The bipartisan framework clearly states that the border enforcement metrics must be met before any path to citizenship is triggered, and Sen. Schumer has not wavered from that principle,” Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon said Friday. “At the same time, the border enforcement metrics cannot be an unachievable standard that postpones an earned path to citizenship indefinitely.”
The comments underscore the challenge of turning a five-page document into a detailed legislative proposal — with many details, including over the pathway to citizenship and border security measures — still to be worked out.
As part of that broad bipartisan agreement, illegal immigrants can live and work legally in the United States after they register with the government, pay fines and back taxes — allowing them to obtain a probationary legal status. But they could not obtain green cards or get on a pathway to citizenship until after a series of border security and enforcement measures take effect. That has been a chief demand of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who endorsed the deal.
Schumer aides are responding to a Thursday press conference in which the senator was asked about linking border security to the pathway to citizenship and concerns that illegal immigrants could be waiting in limbo endlessly under the terms of the proposal. Schumer said the senators were trying to make sure border security isn’t an “excuse” to block obtaining citizenship.
“We’re not using border security as an excuse or a block to the path to citizenship,” Schumer told reporters Thursday. “We just want to make sure — and this is very important both substantively and politically — that there is a secure border, and we’re going to work for that. The [bipartisan group] wants to make sure the border is secure, but not to use it as a barrier to prevent the 11 million from eventually gaining a path to citizenship.”
Immediately afterward, several conservative news outlets reported on the remarks, suggesting that the New York Democrat was backing off the border security requirements. The National Review ran an item on its website, saying, “Will Rubio Pull Out of the Gang of Eight Now?”
But Schumer insists that nothing has changed since last Monday, when he, Rubio and six other senators signed off on the deal.