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THE ISSUE: Immigration

OUR OPINION: Consensus on stopping flow of illegals, documenting workers, offering way to citizenship essential

 

The White House summation is:

“America’s immigration system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country.

“It is time to act to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone — both from the workers here illegally and those who hire them — and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules.”

Some Republicans appear ready to work with President Barack Obama on immigration reform, with South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham being a key player in seeking compromise.

Graham and other Republicans are stepping out to meet a key Obama demand that any reform include a pathway to legal citizenship for many illegals in the country today. They are doing so, first, with the hope of fixing a broken system and putting the federal government back out front where it belongs in enforcing immigration law. Second, Graham and Republicans looking at the practical realize the GOP’s political problems with Hispanics are tied to hard-line positions related to immigration and states seeking the right to make and enforce laws on their own aimed at stemming the flow of illegal immigrants.

Besides a citizenship provision, including new qualifications, the group of eight Democratic and Republican senators speaking out Monday call for increased border security, allowing more temporary workers to stay and cracking down on employers who would hire illegal immigrants.

The senators’ five-page framework also seeks an overhauling of the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain certain advanced degrees from American universities, creating an effective high-tech employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants in the future and allowing more low-skill and agricultural workers.

The senators concede that passage will be tough. They should know.

Six years ago, Graham and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain were among leading Republicans seeking a similar compromise, with then-President George W. Bush in their corner. They failed and ultimately backed away from immigration reform during McCain’s presidential campaign in 2007-08, realizing their efforts were doomed and could spell their political demise in the face of increasing hard-line positions taken by the GOP.

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Convincing many Republicans to go along with Obama, who endorsed the Senate process while making clear he will not compromise on providing the so-called pathway to citizenship, will not be easy. A Rasmussen poll this week shows the level of division: 67 percent of Democrats believe the president is doing a good or excellent job on immigration, but 70 percent of Republicans feel he’s doing a poor job.

Passage of legislation by the Democratic-controlled Senate is far from assured, and getting immigration reform through the GOP-controlled House is even more problematic.

But agreement should be reached in the national interest. Americans of all political persuasions should insist on action.

Border security has been an issue politicized to the point of absurdity, but it IS a major component of any plan that has a realistic chance at working to bring order to today’s immigration chaos.

And a way to gain citizenship for those of the 11 million people who can qualify and are willing to work to become U.S. citizens makes sense. Deporting them is simply not going to happen.

We echo Graham’s statement from this past week: “My hope is immigration reform will start in the Senate and receive an overwhelming bipartisan vote. We’re a long way from having legislative language but I do believe 2013 presents us the best chance to pass immigration reform in many years. The time is right and the way forward, while difficult is being better defined by the day, and with a reasonable amount of political give and take we will be successful. However, if for some reason we fail in our efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I do believe it will be many years before anyone is willing to try and solve this problem. We should start this new attempt hopeful and with full understanding how difficult the task is.”

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