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Immigration progress in sight

Published on March 5, 2013 3:01AM

Last changed on April 2, 2013 10:29AM

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

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A bipartisan group of senators say they have a plan to reform immigration and give legal status to more than 11 million people who are in the country illegally.

President Barack Obama has his own plan, which sounds similar in its broad strokes but differs in some detail.

House Republicans, who have scuttled previous reforms because of opposition to giving illegal immigrants anything that smacks of amnesty, seem to be more willing to make some kind of deal.

And farming interests that desperately need a workable guestworker program and legal status for the thousands of immigrant workers on which they depend are cautiously optimistic.

So are we, at least based on the outline offered by the so-called "Gang of Eight."

The plan is short of specifics. But according to The AP, the senators propose:

* Creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here, contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people here on visas.

* Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university.

* Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants in the future, requiring prospective workers to verify their legal status and identity through a nonforgeable electronic system.

* Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn't recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.

These are things we've supported in the past, with perhaps more specificity.

On several occasions we have proposed a plan that would offer legal status, and an eventual path to citizenship, for illegal immigrants who pay a hefty fine, meet strict educational requirements that include becoming proficient in English, have a clean criminal history and remain employed for 10 years. We believe a workable temporary worker visa program must be enacted, and the border must be secured.

Ever hopeful, we can nonetheless only remind readers that we've been here before, and have seen a great deal of political capital spent for naught. It's the specifics that kill these deals, and in the past partisans of all stripes have added poisonous provisions they knew would cause the larger measure to lose critical support.

Whether viable reform comes in one grand bargain or a series of smaller, focused measures, the status quo must not be allowed to stand.

That will require true statecraft rather than partisan gamesmanship.


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