Our Voice: Immigration reform needs fair chance, not sabotage

June 18, 2013 

Immigration reform has been a long time in coming.

President Obama made it the goal of his second term, much like health care was the theme for his first four years.

He released a sweeping plan for immigration reform that has four main components: strengthen border security, streamline legal immigration, earned citizenship for those already illegally in the United States and crack-down on employers hiring undocumented workers.

Is it perfect? No. But it's a good starting point.

The U.S. Senate is in the midst of debating its immigration bill, introduced by a group of senators known as the "gang of eight."

The goal of passing some version of a comprehensive immigration bill before the July 4 recess seems out of reach. Senators have introduced more than 100 amendments.

Its authors want it to pass with at least 70 votes to try to motivate the House of Representatives to follow suit.

Every senator's vote is critical, and none more than that of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has introduced a 134-page amendment of his own. The crux of the amendment is a requirement that goals for border security in the original bill be met before those registered immigrants in the pipeline can get their green cards. The requirement could delay their legal status for life.

Basically, the benchmark would be set at a level that is unachievable, and the belief is that some senators are creating unrealistic amendments to this already complex bill in order to ensure its failure. Senators whose amendments aren't passed then have a ready reason to oppose the bill in total.

The other path of attack on the immigration reform initiative is to use President Obama's health care reform program to combat it. Some of the amendments Congress is considering would require illegal immigrants to purchase private health insurance and deny them any emergency care provided by public subsidies.

Another health care related amendment would prevent immigrants who have become legal residents from obtaining health care benefits -- even though they may already be eligible for citizenship by that time.

Obamacare is fraught with peril, as is any systemic change on that scale and scope. That's why it's called reform. Change is hard, and the transition is usually far from perfect, but the end results are usually better than the situation it's designed to fix.

As we get closer to enacting some of the president's health care initiatives, the challenges are becoming clearer, as are some of the benefits. Now opponents of immigration reform are trying to lump the two together as flawed and faulty plans.

This much is clear: health care and immigration are issues that need attention. President Obama laid out a guideline for health care, and eventually signed it into law. The Senate and the House need to address immigration, and the president has given them his blueprint.

We doubt any member of Congress would go on record as saying that our immigration system is fine as it exists today. Reasoned amendments are one thing, but bucking the system entirely may just be a path to having another law signed that immediately is mired in controversy.

Congress needs to take it seriously and remember that a true leader is part of the solution, not the problem.

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