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Trying to kill immigration bill

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn Texas accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Ky. gestures as he speaks with reporters

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., gestures as he speaks with reporters about the Immigration Bill following a Republican strategy session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday. (AP Ph

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Updated: June 17, 2013 2:14AM

The Senate debate on immigration last week quickly turned chilling. Toxic doses of gamesmanship and ego filtered in through proposed amendments to the bill.

The amendments range from silly to absurd. They would further distance undocumented immigrants from the legalization process, but that seems to be the goal for some senators.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wants to halt the legalization of undocumented immigrants after a required 10-year wait if border security fails to meet potentially unattainable standards.

He might as well say he is against immigration reform. His plan would effectively kill it, which is why some, including Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), have called his proposal a poison pill.

“It becomes a way to say we can’t move forward,” said Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Policy Center.

The point of Senate Bill 744, sponsored by the bipartisan Gang of Eight, is eventually to legalize about 11 million undocumented immigrants and offer a path to citizenship while simultaneously protecting and securing the border.

“Part of a real solution is resolving the status of all these folks,” Giovagnoli said. “That way you know who is here.”

Republican Senators David Vitter of Louisiana and Chuck Grassley of Iowa also want to tie immigration strictly and unrealistically to border security.

“They’re looking for 100 percent certainty on something you can’t be 100 percent certain on,” Giovagnoli added.

In a meeting last week with the Sun-Times editorial board, Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said, “I think there are lots of folks who are looking for ways to kill the bill.”

You have to wonder if Sen. Mark Kirk is aligned with that group. Illinois business groups and former Gov. Jim Edgar are trying to get Kirk to support the bill, but last week the senator voted against a perfunctory measure to proceed with debate. The vote was 82-15 in favor of proceeding.

Vargas, speaking generally on proposed amendments regarding border enforcement, said, “I think that’s not just unrealistic, it’s insulting.”

Here’s another insult: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is behind an amendment to make English proficiency even tougher than what he originally proposed with the Gang of Eight.

It’s offensive because of a presumption that immigrants don’t want to learn English. Of course they do.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Vargas said.

His group is not opposed to English requirements but wants funding for English education, which fell by the wayside during the recession.

I would be happy if Rubio showed he was on board with the bill he helped craft as a Gang of Eight member. It’s as if he wants to support the bill and distance himself at the same time.

If his English amendment passes, Rubio will eliminate a provision in S. 744 that allows applicants to be in an approved course of study for English if they lack proficiency.

The Gang of Eight had it right because they allowed wiggle room for the illiterate and poor. Rubio’s proposal is a slap in the face to that demographic.

Rubio reminds me of a few ex-colleagues. They were so fixated on their next job that they became ineffective with day-to-day duties.

Is Rubio thinking about the presidency in 2016? Does he really think he is showing the leadership for it?

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