Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hope for real immigration Reform in 2007: Contra Costa Times editorial

The Contra Costa Times recently published the following editorial:

THE TAKEOVER of both houses of Congress by the Democratic Party increases the chances that real immigration reform could be enacted in 2007. That's because most Democrats, a significant number of Republicans and President Bush are in general agreement on how to deal with the issue.

They believe that most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States should be put on a path toward citizenship. Congressional leaders are considering dropping a requirement in a Senate bill that would require several million illegal immigrants to leave the United States before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.

That measure divided illegal immigrants into three groups: those living here for five years or more, those here for two to five years and those here for fewer than two years.

All but the illegal immigrants living here for five years or more, roughly 7 million, would have to leave the country briefly to be eligible for legal status. Those here for fewer than two years would have to leave the country and would not even be guaranteed a slot in a guest-worker plan.

The bill is unworkable. Trying to determine who has been in the country for two, five or more years is virtually impossible, especially with an all-but-certain flood of fake documentation. Then there is the problem of trying to force 7 million people to leave the United States and seek

Opposition to allowing illegal immigrants to stay in this country is understandable. Immigrants should be required to go through the legal process of entering the United States. But there is no practical or humane way to turn back the clock on two decades of lax enforcement of immigration laws.

For many years, immigrants have been lured into the United States by employers seeking low-wage workers, regardless of identification, even though it is illegal to do so.

Had employers strictly obeyed federal law, there would be far fewer illegal immigrants in the United States. Unfortunately, the law was rarely enforced.

For any immigration law to be effective and humane, it must require far better identification documents, strict enforcement of federal law banning the hiring of immigrants without proper identification, and a large guest-worker program to accommodate the millions of immigrants who have been working productively in this country for many years.

In brief, reform measures now being discussed in Congress should effectively monitor immigration, protect our borders, enforce the law, recognize economic and logistical realities and be humane.

Bills that have been debated in Congress during the past few years meet some, but not all of the above criteria. Their biggest failing is trying to undo two decades of virtually open borders. It now appears that there is broad support in Congress for a more realistic immigration reform.

Those drafting new legislation for 2007 include Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., along with Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. The four and their staff members have begun working on a bill, which could be one of the few successes of the Bush administration.

Even with bipartisan support in Congress and backing by the White House, immigration reform will not be easy. Many members of Congress in both parties still fear that allowing most illegal immigrants to seek citizenship will be considered granting amnesty like that in the Simpson-Mazzoli law, which has proved to be so ineffective.

However, it was not amnesty that resulted in a failure to control immigration. It was a lack of enforcement against employers who hired illegal immigrants and the lack of foolproof identification for foreign nationals working in the United States.

These are the shortcomings that need to be corrected, not deportation of millions of people or a huge fence along part of our border with Mexico.

For a link to the editorial on the Contra Costa Times website click HERE.

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