Editorials

House should pass immigration bill

Hours before President Barack Obama was scheduled to address the nation Thursday night, Senate majority leader-elect Mitch McConnell was warning that "Congress will act" if the president unilaterally lifts the threat of deportation for millions of immigrants.

Which, if we're not mistaken, is what a lot of interests, including the Farm Bureau and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have long been wanting Congress to do — act.

Specifically, they want the House to act on the bipartisan immigration reform bill that the Senate approved 68-31 in June 2013 with the support of the Farm Bureau and U.S. Chamber.

"We're considering a variety of options," McConnell said Thursday. "But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act."

McConnell did not specify which options. But, unfortunately, as the New York Times reports, Republicans are "sharply divided about whether to shut down the government or seek Mr. Obama's impeachment in an effort to stop the executive actions from moving forward ... while other Republicans have urged the party to avoid going down either of those routes."

Whoa.

How about the option of doing the job to which they were elected?

Any law that Congress enacts will supplant Obama's executive orders. And Congress is long overdue to update and revise immigration law.

The Farm Bureau, whose members depend on year-round and seasonal immigrant labor, lobbied for the bill that passed the Senate in 2013.

Under that legislation, experienced farm workers already in this country could obtain legal immigration status (in the form of a blue card which would be more restrictive than a green card) by satisfying certain requirements such as a background check, paying a fine and proving that taxes had been paid. The bill also would establish a new guest-worker visa program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It's ludicrous to think the country could afford or would want to round up and deport the estimated 11 million immigrants who are here illegally, many of whom are parents of American citizens.

The Senate bill also would spend many more billions on securing the border with Mexico, an exercise that probably is ultimately futile, given the market forces that control the flow of humans across our southern border.

In Kentucky, the number of immigrants living here illegally has dropped from an estimated 50,000 in 2009 to 35,000 in 2012, in part because of increased border security but mostly because of the economic slowdown.

Kentucky farmers did not need experts to tell them the number of farm workers had declined this fall as they struggled to find enough workers to harvest their tobacco.

The lame-duck House should listen to farmers and do their country a favor by passing the Senate bill before the curtain falls on this Congress next month.

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