When the Gang of Eight was crafting its comprehensive immigration reform proposal — but before the bill was actually released — pro-reform Republicans on Capitol Hill often pointed to the various triggers they said would ensure the bill’s border-security directives are actually carried out.

One key trigger, they claimed, was the creation and empowerment of something called the Southern Border Security Commission.  If within five years after the passage of the bill, the Secretary of Homeland Security has failed to increase border security to a level in which 100 percent of the border is under surveillance and 90 percent of those attempting to cross illegally are caught — if Homeland Security has not reached those goals, then the Commission would be formed.

It wouldn’t be the standard, do-nothing Washington commission, Gang sources argued.  Instead, it would have real legal authority to actually carry out the border security measures that the Secretary of Homeland Security had failed to accomplish.  This is how one key Capitol Hill source described it to me in an interview a few days before the bill was released:

Five years after the notice of commencement, you will have to have achieved 100 percent situational awareness and 90 percent apprehension in all nine sectors of the border.  If that metric has not been achieved after the first five years, the Border Commission goes from being an advisory panel to a policy-making one.  We have set money aside in escrow for the Border Commission to come up with a supplemental plan to meet that metric of 90 percent and 100 percent.  That happens after five years.

It sounded tough, intended to convince skeptical conservatives that reform would be based on stringent border security.  But as it turns out, the structure Gang sources described is simply not in the bill.

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