IMMIGRATION reform is urgent, but not so urgent the U.S. Senate should abandon its responsible approach and embrace shortsighted House bills this week.
That appears to be Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's plan as he presses for a vote just weeks before a contentious election. He wants the Senate to vote on items common to the House's enforcement-only approach and the broader Senate version. But that would leave out a critical element for meaningful immigration reform.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed a reasonable immigration-reform proposal that increases enforcement against illegal immigration while also taking responsibility for flawed U.S. immigration policy that encouraged an underground work force.
The Senate would include a guest-worker plan to ensure enough workers for industries that have grown dependent on illegal labor. Law-abiding workers eventually could earn a path to citizenship.
But the harder-line House passed an enforcement-only bill that prompted huge protests across the country. Rather than negotiate with the Senate, the House divided its larger bill this month, sending three bills to the Senate.
The new House bills are more of the same: enforcement only; no effort to minimize disruption to the economy. The former without the latter is bound to fail.
In a series last week, Seattle Times reporters depicted how much a part of the work force are these unauthorized workers. They dominate the agricultural work force but also parts of food service and construction.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter is right to resist Frist's approach and insist on a common-ground compromise. The Pennsylvania Republican has been a wise voice for a holistic approach to the dilemma that is immigration reform.
He promises the issue will remain a top priority for his committee even if no bill is passed this session.
The other senators who voted for the broader bill should hold their ground.
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