Immigration reformfaces many snags , by Albor Ruiz:
"This problem [immigration] requires bipartisan solutions, and Democrats are committed to fixing it," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement issued last Thursday after he introduced the top 10 Democratic leadership bills.
By including a comprehensive immigration bill among the new Congress' priorities, Reid was sending a clear signal of the Democratic majority's resolve to tackle a problem that has proven divisive and intractable for years.
"It is good news; this is something that Mayor Bloomberg has been urging Congress to do for a long time," said Guillermo Linares, the city's Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs.
And he added: "A comprehensive reform bill with a path to legalization is something positive for New York, where more than half a million undocumented immigrants live and work."
Yet for all the symbolic value of making immigration reform one of the priorities of the Democratic leadership, and even if Reid's intention is to pass a bill before the end of the year, there is no guarantee it will actually happen. Or if it does, there is no certainty it will be the kind of comprehensive, rational and fair reform bill the country needs.
"We passed a solid immigration bill in the Senate last year. Unfortunately, it fell victim to politics in the House of Representatives," Reid said. "Immigration reform is too vital to our security and our economy to fall by the wayside, so we must deal with it again in 2007."
It won't be easy. For once, Democrats cannot hope to pass an immigration reform bill without the Republicans.
"Our bill will take a comprehensive approach to repairing this broken system," he said. "With tough and smart reforms, to secure our borders, crack down on enforcement, and lay out a path to earned legalization for undocumented immigrants already living here."
Although the rabid anti-immigration crowd in Congress will not fade away without a fight, few dispute the urgency of fixing an immigration system that has become a shameful human rights scandal.
Hundreds of desperately poor people perish at the borders every year, and more and more hardworking families are ripped apart by the repressive policies that pass for immigration reform these days.
The excuse is, of course, national security. Yet, the truth is that those who die at the borders - 460 in 2005, almost 40% more than in 2004 and the highest number since the Border Patrol began counting in 1998 - and those fathers and mothers who are summarily deported have nothing to do with terrorism or with U.S. security.
The failure of the last Congress to act on a comprehensive and fair reform was largely responsible for turning the immigration crisis into the far-reaching human tragedy it is today.
"[Prioritizing immigration] is the right thing to do given that the past Congress could not pass a bill for political reasons," said Chung-Wha Hong, the New York Immigration Coalition executive director. "But I am worried about the content of the bill. We need it to be a good bill, not a watered-down one."
Which is why congressional leadership must work closely with immigrant organizations in shaping meaningful immigration reform legislation.
According to the New York Immigration Coalition, the country needs a law that forges bipartisan consensus around reforms that strengthen families and communities, advance prosperity and enhance security. The new Congress has a real chance of passing such a law. Let's hope they don't miss it.
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