Time to move forward with immigration reform
Bipartisan efforts began this week to attempt to pass a package of immigration reform laws, and that’s a welcome change from the stalemate that has marked this issue dating back to the Bush administration.
However, the fact that four Democratic senators and four Republican ones have agreed in principle to a series of reforms doesn’t guarantee they will win congressional approval. Opponents of serious immigration reform are already vowing to fight the measures.
Still, unlike the proposed assault weapons ban, which has been met with nearly universal opposition from Republicans, many in the GOP now recognize the need to support some form of immigration reform if they hope to gain support from Latino voters.
The proposed package includes provisions for better border security and cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. It would also include measures to allow more skilled workers to legally enter this country.
The most controversial provision would create a path to citizenship — often dubbed amnesty — for an estimated 11 million immigrants already living in this country illegally.
Many tea party Republicans and other conservatives object to any plan that would allow people here illegally to move toward becoming citizens. Such a provision rewards their criminal behavior, critics say.
The flip side, which also merits consideration, is that those already here use taxpayer-funded services and infrastructure. And nobody believes we are going to engage in a mass deportation of 11 million people.
Wouldn’t it be better to have those living here illegally on a path to becoming fully engaged, tax-paying citizens rather than living in the shadows and contributing little to the public coffers? That assumes, of course, that the immigrants in question aren’t guilty of any crime more serious than crossing our borders illegally.
Census data released late last year showed that the number of illegal immigrants in the country actually dropped over the past few years from a high of near 12 million to a little more than 11 million, as fewer people tried to enter this country illegally and more opted to return to their homelands.
Meanwhile, demographers say they don’t expect illegal immigration from Mexico and neighboring Central American countries to again reach the record pace it did in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The slowdown in the U.S. economy is part of the reason for that, but so are improved border security, increased deportations by the Obama administration and a graying population in Mexico and neighboring countries.
Even so, it’s well past time for Congress to tackle immigration reform and come up with a sensible plan for dealing with those already here, as well as those whose skills are needed. We applaud the eight senators from both parties, including Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, for beginning that process.