From The Morning Call Editorial:
February 1, 2007
Congress should pass immigration reform before primary campaigns heat up
The U.S. Senate is a more deliberative body than the House.
That common wisdom does not apply, however, when it comes to immigration reform on Capitol Hill. Last year, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill and is expected to pass a similar measure during this session. Last year's bill included improved enforcement efforts, a program to let immigrants in as guest workers, and a process for illegal immigrants to become legal U.S. citizens. Once again, Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are at the forefront of the Senate's effort in this regard, with plans to introduce revised legislation in February.
The House, however, is an entirely different story. Last year, then-Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., refused to allow a vote on immigration reform without support from a ''majority of the majority'' party in the GOP-controlled House.
Eventually, the House passed an enforcement-only bill following little debate. This year, the Los Angeles Times noted in a story Monday, ''the House is legislative terra incognita.'' President Bush set the right tone in his State of the Union address last week. He called for a ''legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country,'' a better assimilation process and the resolution of the status of about 12 million illegal immigrants ''without animosity and without amnesty.''
''Amnesty'' is a word fraught with bad memories and intense emotions for people who opposed the Senate's attempt last year at immigration reform. The roots of their anger stem from 1986 immigration reform, which included an amnesty for 3 million illegal immigrants.
Critics have said the legislation encouraged more people to come illegally to the United States, with the assumption that they eventually would be given citizenship. Though there is much to be learned from the Reagan-era legislation, critics should stop dredging it up every time they seek to block comprehensive immigration reform in the 21st century.
The past is history — so is the word ''amnesty'' — and this country is long overdue to find reasonable and effective ways to better deal with 12 million people living in the shadows.
Lawmakers are in a tough spot. Immigrant advocates seek better labor protections even as businesses worry about a supply of labor. Employer verification programs, which make sure job applicants aren't illegal immigrants, need closer scrutiny by federal officials.
Also, time is limited for the simple reason that immigration reform could become campaign fodder for the multitude of 2008 presidential primary candidates. Latinos comprise the nation's fastest-growing bloc of potential voters, and that fact is not lost on campaign managers in either political party.
Capitol Hill should pass comprehensive reform before political campaigns intensify in about six months. Immigration issues won't just vanish.
Copyright © 2007, The Morning Call
For a link to the editorial, click HERE.