PD Editorial: Time is right to compromise on immigration
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 6:02 p.m.
Some of the bright lines dividing Washington during campaign season are a little blurry since the election.
In budget talks, additional revenue and reduced spending are on the table.
Immigration may be next in line for a compromise. For the first time in many years, both Democrats and Republicans are motivated to find common ground. It’s no great revelation that the immigration system is broken, but fixing it has long taken a backseat to exploiting the issue for political gain.
Latino voters delivered a powerful message on Nov. 6. President Barack Obama captured an astounding 71 percent of the Latino vote. Latinos also helped Democrats extend their majority in the Senate and gain seats in the House.
Obama identified the game-changing potential of the Latino vote in a pre-election interview with the Des Moines Register. “Should I win a second term,” he said, “a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.”
But political coalitions don’t last forever. Obama has twice promised immigration reform. If he doesn’t deliver, he risks his party’s support from a rapidly growing segment of the electorate.
For Republicans, who championed immigration reform during the Reagan administation, returning to the bargaining table is a matter of damage control.
In California, the GOP has foundered in the Latino community since 1994, when Gov. Pete Wilson built his re-election bid on an anti-immigrant platform. Republicans were more competitive in national elections. George W. Bush captured 35 percent of the Latino vote in 2000 and 40 percent four years later.
But as Latinos started to vote in greater numbers, GOP candidates began equating immigration reform with amnesty for lawbreakers. In Congress, Republicans supported a border fence but opposed legal residency for immigrants brought here as children. This year, Mitt Romney introduced the idea of “self-deportation.”
Much as the broad outlines of a deficit compromise are easily seen, there is a blueprint for immigration reform — a comprehensive bill blocked by a Senate filibuster in 2007.
That measure coupled border security and workplace enforcement with a guest worker program and a path to legal residency for many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country. In revisiting the issue, lawmakers also should consider verification systems for employers and dismantle outdated quotas that block entry for skilled workers and, worse, turn away talented young people after they earn advance degrees in American universities.
Illegal immigration across the southern border has slowed to a trickle, a result of increased enforcement and a weak economy. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is aggressively deporting illegal immigrants, at times going far beyond the stated goal of removing dangerous criminals.
It’s now time to work on the entire equation — finding a solution for people who are living, working here, raising children who were born here as well as would-be immigrants whose skills would strengthen our economy. That’s one of the messages of this year’s election.
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