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Here's the real loser in the Trump-Schumer Twitter war over terrorism

  • The Trump-Schumer battle over the NYC terror attack is producing a lot of bad responses.
  • But the incident and the political fight prove once again how desperately the U.S. needs immigration reform.
  • The elements of a sensible and successful immigration compromise are actually clearer than ever.
President Donald Trump (R) hosts a reception for House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Attending were Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
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President Donald Trump (R) hosts a reception for House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Attending were Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (L) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

The political bickering over Tuesday's deadly terror attack in Manhattan is already going at full steam.

A center stage, we have President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer trading barbs on Twitter:

It goes on from there with more zingers coming from both sides, but you get the idea.

Even Senator Jeff Flake tried to wade into the Trump-Schumer battle and defend Schumer with this tweet referring to the work of the so-called Gang of 8:

But that tweet was misleading as it made it sound like the Gang of 8's reforms actually passed. They actually never even came up for a vote in the House of Representatives. So an hour later, Flake clarified:

Here's the important takeaway: Once again, the American people are the real losers in this fight, as political squabbling is clearly winning the day as opposed to a sober and fair look at our immigration and anti-terror policies.

What makes this all so cruel is that love or hate the Gang of 8's proposals, its efforts do represent the last serious bipartisan effort to address the needed reforms for immigration policy in America. Yes, the process was overly secretive and flawed for many reasons. But at least four Democrats and four Republicans made the effort.

The good news is that the Gang of 8's failures still provide us with a road map of what to do and what not to do to make proposals that would not only create good immigration reforms but might actually be approved by Congress and signed by the president.

Senator Flake's tweets at least provided us with a good first step: Eliminate the diversity visa program lottery in favor of a more merit-based vetting policy. If the Gang of 8 agreed on that all those years before Tuesday's attack, even more politicians should now.

Second, the fatal flaw in most immigration reform bills is that they never seem to do enough to truly boost border security first. That mistake practically created the Trump "build the wall" campaign slogan and its potency within the GOP base. In addition to allowing for major funding for border control, any successful immigration reform bill will have to allow for a waiting period for those security efforts to be built and kick in before any other more lenient reforms go into effect.

This is crucial. It may seem like shortening and easing the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already here in the U.S. is a non-starter for conservatives. But that compromise has a much better chance of succeeding if concrete border security measures are made and shown to be working for a year or so before expedited citizenship programs begin and deportation efforts are scaled back. The line many conservatives swallowed in 1986 when a massive amnesty program for illegal immigrants went into effect under President Reagan was that that leniency was being matched by much improved immigration enforcement. But that part of the deal never materialized and poor funding for better border security was a big reason why. That is why immigration hawks in Congress and President Trump will never support any reform bill that doesn't make that a financial and chronological priority.

Speaking of President Trump, his support is obviously crucial. One of the reasons the Gang of 8 bill never had a realistic chance was that President Obama and his administration were never really behind it in a strong way. That is not to say that if President Obama had pulled out all the stops to support it the bill would have succeeded. But a noticeable lack of White House enthusiasm didn't help.

The final piece of the puzzle is for pro-immigration advocates to accept the extreme vetting processes and even some temporary bans the Trump administration wants to impose in the face of Islamic terrorism.

What's in it for the Democrats and/or those who favor more open immigration rules? The simple answer is the big picture. If they are truly for a faster track to legal, safe, and fair immigration, it should acceptable to give in to increased border security and the scaled-back temporary Trump administration immigration bans the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld. Permanent policy improvements should be more important than any temporary setbacks, period.

Even in the wake of this Manhattan attack by an immigrant who came here on a controversial visa program, it's clear what our better choices are when it comes to immigration. And when even people like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio now say that anyone who wants to come to the United States should be "very thoroughly vetted" you can see the roots of compromise starting to form.

The other option is we can continue to endure snippy fights on Twitter between politicians.

The choice is obvious.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.