North Texas Daily

Rocky path to citizenship reform ahead

Rocky path to citizenship reform ahead

February 05
22:26 2013

The following editorial appeared in The Capital on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

States like Maryland and Arizona began passing their own legislation on illegal immigrants because it seemed there would never be any action on immigration reform in Washington, D.C.

Inside the Beltway, the rule seemed to be that government of gridlock, by gridlock, for gridlock shall not perish from the earth.

And then, last week, President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of senators — including 2008 GOP presidential contender John McCain and possible 2016 GOP presidential contender Marco Rubio — released proposals on immigration reform with far more similarities than differences.

Will we see action this year to reform a failed system that has brought 11 million illegal immigrants to this country? Or is this just a cruel hoax to get our hopes up?

The main difference in the written proposals: The senators insist creation of a path to citizenship for “unauthorized immigrants” must follow efforts to secure the borders and the creation of a system to find out if people who’ve entered the United States with temporary papers are overstaying their visas.

But both plans talk about setting up a pathway to legal residence for those who come forward to register, and then take their place in line behind lawful applicants.

Both include an exception for those brought here as minor children. Both include mandatory systems that allow employers to verify that those they are hiring are legal residents.

Both plans would award automatic green cards to foreign students who get graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.

And both plans won’t satisfy those who reject any scrap of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

But for years this country created a de facto system that drew people desperate for economic opportunity and then looked the other way while they were employed for salaries and in conditions that wouldn’t be tolerated for the native-born.

At any rate, we’re not going to deport 11 million people — nearly twice the population of Maryland. We’re all for securing the borders, which is stressed by both plans. But we’re also for some semblance of realism.

Cynics will say that Republicans — or at least some Republicans — are changing course because they noticed that Mitt Romney had a wretched showing among Hispanic voters, a demographic that will only get larger in 2016.

But the GOP has never had a monolithic position on this issue: The two plans presented last week strongly resemble the one President George W. Bush pushed in 2006.

Anyway, there are more important things than which party scores the most points. We need a compromise solution on at least one major national issue, if only to demonstrate that our federal government can be effective at something besides running up the deficit.

If not immigration, what? And if not now, when?

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