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The 2012 election created an opening for a bipartisan compromise on immigration. Congress should not let the Boston bombing distract from that goal.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
The Senate should not let shock waves from the Boston Marathon bombings derail comprehensive immigration reform.
News that the alleged bombers were a pair of ethnic Chechen immigrants — both legal, and one a naturalized citizen — inspired a conservative bid to stall the bipartisan reform bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it is scheduled to be debated through May. That’s the appropriate forum for offering amendments.
Congress should not squander the momentum generated by the Grand Old Party’s small-d democratic lesson from November: Win some of the growing Hispanic vote, or die.
The election created political space to work out a bipartisan compromise on a heretofore intractable deal-breaker: a pathway to citizenship for immigrants already in the country illegally. Republicans once opposed to anything resembling amnesty are showing signs of reason.
The Senate bill is just the start of a long fight, of course. An ad hoc, bipartisan committee is working on its own proposal in the House, but the fate of that effort is even less clear.
Virginia 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte heads the House Judiciary Committee, which continues working on piecemeal legislation to address narrower issues, such as expanding the guest worker program.
Goodlatte opposes creating a path to citizenship for undocumented workers — other than the one they have, as he told a National Public Radio interviewer in February: “to abide by the immigration laws.”
But his own party leaders in the House, Speaker John Boehner and Finance Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the GOP’s recent vice presidential candidate, suggested this week they would support a comprehensive overhaul. It is long overdue.
A rational law must include some provision to bring 11 million people now living in the economic shadows into the mainstream. As Ryan put it, “We do not want to have a society where we have different classes of people who cannot reach their American dream by not being a full citizen.”
The Senate gang of eight proposal rolled out last week would give illegal immigrants already in the United States provisional legal status — and provide $3 billion to secure the border with Mexico to prevent large numbers of new undocumented immigrants from entering the country.
The bill also lays out a long, difficult, but achievable path for undocumented workers who live peaceful, productive lives here and want to become Americans.
Out of many, one. That’s the strength of the American idea.
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