- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York confidently predicts that at least 70 members of the U.S. Senate are going to vote for the so-called comprehensive immigration-reform bill proposed by his “Gang of Eight.” That assumes a substantial number of what he calls “our Republicans” will join in.

There won’t be sufficient GOP senators to get the requisite 60 votes — let alone 70 — unless this deeply defective legislation retains the vote of just one Republican: Marco Rubio.

Whether Florida’s junior senator continues to support the bill will tell us a lot about whether he cares about national security — and whether he has, accordingly, a prayer of being a serious contender for commander in chief.

If Mr. Rubio is content with merely paying lip service to the safety and security of the American people, he will continue to enable the adoption of this 1,077-page monstrosity. Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, caustically remarked on Secure Freedom Radio last week that anytime you hear people describing their legislation as “comprehensive,” it means they are hiding “trash” in it that would never pass muster if not thus concealed.

If, on the other hand, Mr. Rubio actually does take seriously his responsibility as a federal lawmaker to provide for the common defense, and if he seriously aspires to the presidency, there is simply no way he can enable this bill’s enactment in anything remotely like its present form.

At the moment, Mr. Rubio seems to want to have it both ways. His support enabled the Gang of Eight to keep their bipartisan plan from being declared dead on arrival. It allowed the Judiciary Committee to make the bill markedly worse during protracted deliberations.

Yet Mr. Rubio is publicly professing an intention to see the gang’s bill amended significantly on the Senate floor, starting next week. For example, the senator went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program to declare: “It’s very simple. If we can come up with a plan that people have confidence in for the border, I believe we’ll have immigration reform. If we cannot, we will not, and we should not. I don’t think it will pass without those measures in there. I just don’t.”

By that standard, the Gang of Eight’s legislation is a nonstarter, since its plan for securing the border is more of a confidence racket than something the American people can have confidence in. Consider, for example, just a few of its myriad security-subverting defects:

The bill’s present structure makes a mockery of claims that border security comes first. For instance, illegal immigrants are granted the first step toward amnesty six months after the immigration bill’s enactment, provided the Department of Homeland Security merely submits to Congress a plan on how “effective control” (defined as a 90 percent apprehension rate) can be achieved and maintained along the southern border, and offers a “fencing strategy.” A “plan” and a “strategy”? Even if they are sound and are actually going to be implemented down the road (and there is no reason to think either would be the case under the Obama-Napolitano Department of Homeland Security), they will certainly not be in place when amnesty starts kicking in.

This amnesty-first, border security-whenever formula is grounds for a vote of no-confidence, especially in light of several of the bill’s other unacceptable features: Further steps toward full amnesty require only a certification by the Homeland Security secretary that the border control plan is “substantially deployed and substantially operational” and that the fence strategy is “substantially completed.” Since the incumbent insists that the border is “more secure now than ever,” such a certification will surely be forthcoming, even if unwarranted. In the unlikely event it isn’t, if after 10 years, litigation or acts of God have prevented these conditions from being met, never mind. Amnesty is guaranteed to kick in anyway.

Like Mr. Obama’s earlier amnesty initiative — the Dream Act — the Gang of Eight bill is already having the predictable effect: Illegal immigration is up as untold numbers of aliens seek to take advantage of our still-too-porous border to get themselves placed on the “path to citizenship.” As Mr. Rubio surely knows, a non-trivial percentage of those are dubbed OTMs — “other than Mexicans.” These include persons from what are euphemistically called “special-interest countries,” notably, Iran and other Islamist-ruled nations. Some are even associated with terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah — notwithstanding the Obama State Department’s preposterous announcement last week that there are “no known operational cells” of such groups in the Western Hemisphere.

Does Mr. Rubio want to be responsible for helping their ilk not only continue to come here, but to obtain legal status to stay? Is he OK with the extensive hamstringing of law enforcement this bill entails, which can only make it more difficult to protect us against such unwanted aliens?

Then there’s the screening process mandated by the gang’s legislation for the more than 11 million illegal immigrants already here. It seems designed to delude the innocent, not detect the dangerous. Its superficial, hands-off review bears no resemblance to the 14-hour interview the FBI conducted of Tamerlan Tsarnaev before the Boston Marathon bombings— and even that proved inadequate to the task of identifying and excluding a threat.

Mr. Rubio cannot finesse the hard choice before him. An amendment here or there will not fix the systemic problems with a bill that, at its core, ignores and subverts national security by undoing much of the law put in place after Sept. 11 to thwart terrorists and dangerous criminals seeking to exploit our immigration system. Will he enable it to become the devastating new law of the land?

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. was an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. He is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the syndicated program Secure Freedom Radio.