Immigration politics


Sponsors of a useful immigration-reform bill before the Senate want to get the measure to the floor for a vote by the July 4 weekend. The legislation offers the opportunity of earned citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The trade-offs demanded by some senators include stronger border enforcement, prevention of further illegal immigration, and new limits on access to social-welfare programs for illegal immigrants. The latter point might sound reasonable, until you consider the ramifications of something like the recent Oklahoma natural disasters.


If someone is suddenly homeless, in need of medical care, and without food, are Americans prepared to say: “Sorry, no help — you are illegal”?

Supporters hope to build momentum and challenge the House by passing the bill with a super-majority. It takes 60 Senate votes to overcome a threatened filibuster; advocates aim for 70 votes.

To get there, reformers must appeal to Republicans like Ohio’s Rob Portman, as well as senators considerably to the right of him. The only way to do that, supposedly, is to make the bill “tougher.”

But the path to legal status spelled out in the bill is already long and arduous. And the nation’s borders are already tightly patrolled.

The concessions needed to gain GOP votes will have to be symbolic, Draconian, or both. Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), a key sponsor of the bill, now proposes that the Border Patrol essentially be run by Congress, because an executive branch that produces an “out-of-control” Internal Revenue Service can’t be trusted.

That’s a nonsensical, unconstitutional solution to a nonexistent problem. But it’s the kind of concession supporters of the reform bill are asked to make. Apparently, the notion that Republicans know they must appeal to Latino voters has faded.

In Ohio, an estimated 100,000 people, 1.2 percent of the state’s work force, are illegal immigrants. Many of these are agricultural workers on whom our farm economy depends. These are people who work hard and whose children deserve access to the American dream.

Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who opposed the last attempt at immigration reform as too punitive, seems to be on board this time. But other liberal Democrats are now saying: Don’t give away the store. It is more important to get a good bill than 70 votes.

Wise lawmakers do not want to see a repeat of the recent failure of Senate gun-control legislation: so much hard work and hope, for nothing. They want to show that they can do their jobs.

This is an ideal moment for a responsible Republican, such as Mr. Portman, to remind his colleagues that while they have a right to seek concessions, at some point voters will punish a party that offers only obstruction, negation, and nihilism.