Herald-Leader Editorial

Citizenship key in immigration bill; House GOP endangers reform, party

July 3, 2013 

Quratul Ain Fatima, right, and 42 other people took the oath for citizenship with the other candidates on Feb. 3, 2006, at the U.S. District Courthouse in Frankfort, Ky. Fatima is originally from Pakistan.


In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the Senate lopsidedly passed a sweeping immigration reform bill that tightens border security, increases visas for highly skilled workers and provides a pathway to America's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

But the House of Representatives, predictably mired in zealotry, might refuse to even take up the measure.

Instead, the House is drafting separate legislation that does not provide a pathway to citizenship, which some congressional Republicans have derided as amnesty.

Yet, the Senate's 13-year minimum waiting period, along with the payment of back taxes and fines, could not conceivably be described as soft.

House Speaker John Boehner has the unenviable job of negotiating between his caucus' ideologues and his party's very survival.

By refusing to even take up the matter, Republicans would consign themselves into a demographic death spiral by losing even more Hispanic voters.

Even with the Supreme Court's evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, the current policy of voter suppression laws and gerrymandering can only give so much artificial buoyancy to a party that refuses to lift the anchor.

Republican senators in the Gang of Eight, which negotiated the bill, know this. GOP political strategists Karl Rove and Grover Norquist know this. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney knew this after losing the Latino vote by 44 points.

It's a shame that Democrats must push immigration reform on some Republicans like mothers forcing medicine on obdurate toddlers.

Instead of refusing to bring the bill to the floor unless a majority of House Republicans support it, Boehner should put his country — and his party's future — first.

Citizens should urge their Congress members to consider the Senate bill. There is little reason not to. An amendment by two Republican senators effectively locks down the border by doubling the number of border patrol agents and increasing surveillance capabilities.

As Sen. John McCain said: "This is not only sufficient, it is well over-sufficient. We'll be the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall."

Nonetheless, Kentucky senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul voted against the bill, citing vague fears about border security, despite the current level of zero net illegal immigration.

And far from this legislation costing taxpayers, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would reduce deficits by nearly $1 trillion, increase wages and spur economic growth.

By expanding an electronic employment verification system, the Senate's bill would also turn off the magnet driving most illegal immigration: the prospect of jobs with less-than-scrupulous employers.

Rather than dismiss the Senate's reasonable bill, the House should move to end the untenable status quo. Kentucky's Republican lawmakers would be wise to consider the proposal, whether in the interest of self-preservation or for the good of the nation.

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