Five months ago, the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive measure aimed at fixing the nation’s broken immigration system. The bill continues to languish in the House, thanks to the calculated intransigence of Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. It’s time for a vote.
Mr. Boehner said recently that he is “hopeful we can make progress on this very important issue.” Yet he refuses to allow the House to vote on the Senate bill, even though it would likely pass.
Recent polls confirm solid public support in Ohio and across the nation for immigration reform. Mr. Boehner’s continued obstruction risks alienating Latino voters from his Republican Party for two generations, says Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee.
“People are going to remember how they were treated when they were in these circumstances,” says Mr. Velasquez. Reform advocates continue to fast on Washington’s National Mall to pressure Congress into acting.
The Senate bill lays out a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in this country. It also requires them to pay a penalty for breaking the law.
The measure would increase border security and crack down on employers who hire unauthorized workers. Legalizing people who now operate underground would contribute to economic growth. It also would stop many deportations that have broken up thousands of families.
The House Republican caucus remain intimidated by Tea Party nativists who oppose the Senate bill. Mr. Boehner insists GOP lawmakers will only act on the issue “one step at a time.” In response, President Obama said this week he would be willing to get immigration reform done in pieces, rather than in a single comprehensive measure.
But in whatever form, change needs to occur. Poll after poll show that Americans want a positive solution to the problem of millions of hard-working people who live here in fear of deportation and having their families wrenched apart.
This week, the Public Religion Research Institute reported that 63 percent of Americans — and 60 percent of Ohioans — favor providing a way for illegal immigrants to become citizens, as long as they meet certain requirements. The national support is bipartisan, crosses religious lines, and is identical to what it was in March and August.
Earlier this month, a Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters found that 57 percent say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States and eventually apply for citizenship.
The message is clear: Speaker Boehner should stop using the Obamacare mess as an excuse not to do anything else. The House should vote on the Senate immigration bill before year’s end.
The holiday season is an appropriate time for the President and Congress to renew this nation’s historic commitment to welcoming the contributions of immigrants.