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Opening Arguments

Killer question

Democrats don't have to even think about immigration reform, let alone answer tough questions about it. They just say it's wrong to discriminate and America is the nation of immigrants, and their base thinks that's just fine. But Republicans do have to think about it, because it's an issue their base cares a lot about. So presidential candidates have to sound tough enough for the base but not so tough it scares the "moderates" away in a general election. And it's becoming clear that they haven't thought it through very well, because there is "one killer question" awaiting them, as Byron York points out.

Here's how the difficult moment will come about:

1. Republicans start by saying, of course we can't just up and deport the 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants already here. So, 2) So we have to do this reform in pieces in order, starting with new security measures that include especially enhanced border security, a beter visa entry-exist system and the E-Verify system to identify employees working illegally. That brings up 3, the killer question: What about E-Verify?

If businesses were actually required to ascertain the legal status of their employees, those businesses would certainly identify millions of workers holding jobs in the United States illegally. What would happen to them? Candidates have already pledged that there will be no mass deportations of illegal immigrants who have not been convicted of multiple serious crimes. If they deport people identified by E-Verify, they're breaking that pledge. And if they don't, they're enacting the type of "amnesty" they also promised to avoid.

They're walking into a big, fat trap, and I confess I don't know how they'll get out of it, but they'd better start thinking a little further ahead than they have been.