This is the first of several editorials on Immigration Reform that I will be posting in full:
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"The midterm congressional elections, a disappointed electorate and, most likely, more economic pain are all waiting for the country in 2010. And the Obama administration wants to tackle immigration reform? We'll see. For now, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has floated a trial balloon, challenging Congress to pass a bill next year. Of course, next year's not soon enough for an issue as crucial and necessary as immigration reform. But the odds of Congress passing any bill next year depend greatly on what Congress manages to get passed this year. Don't believe us? Just watch. If Congress completes the Herculean task of health care reform this year without making too many compromises, it might - might - have the stomach to take on another big, controversial issue like immigration reform. Then again, it might get bogged down by climate change legislation or the economy. If Congress doesn't pass health care reform, or makes too many compromises in order to pass any reform at all, it will lose its appetite for anything as divisive as immigration reform. If that happens, we may get a lot of bluster next year, but very little movement. This is because the political climate around immigration reform hasn't changed enough, despite Napolitano's insistence that it has. Yes, Lou Dobbs finally had to shut down his poisonous brand of anti-immigrant entertainment on CNN. Yes, America's bad economy has slowed illegal immigration to a trickle, and yes, both the Bush and Obama administrations have made high-profile moves to enforce immigration laws at the workplace and at the border. These are all positive changes. But they aren't enough. Two years after the last disastrous attempt at immigration reform, most Americans remain unconvinced that immigrants do, indeed, contribute positively to our economy and our society. And while immigrants certainly can't be blamed for last year's financial crisis, this year's recession and next year's still-high unemployment figures, Congress is going to find it very hard to ask Americans to be generous to those who entered this country illegally at a time when so many Americans are facing hard times themselves. If Congress can pass health care reform, and many Americans feel better and more secure about their coverage, the country might find immigration reform to be more palatable. But either way, we need reform, and we need it now. That's probably why Napolitano is talking about essentially the same reforms as former President George W. Bush: a "tough but fair" path to legalization for the illegal immigrants already here, ways to encourage immigrants to choose the legal option and stricter punishments. The first reform is the only pragmatic way of coping with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants we already have. They're here, and they're not leaving. It would be impossible, not to mention odious, to hunt them all down and deport them. So why not offer a path to legalization - one that acknowledges the seriousness of illegal entry but still allows hard-working people to join the mainstream, and the tax rolls, of American society? Reform would also give Congress the opportunity to make some badly needed changes to our legal immigration system. One of the major reasons people continue to stay in this country illegally is that the legal process for immigration is so difficult and time-consuming. Simplifying and streamlining the system we already have would be an easy way to reduce illegal immigration going into the future. There's never going to be a good time for immigration reform in a political sense. It will always encounter disruptive resistance from Americans opposed to anything - no matter how humane or practical - that offers a reprieve to people who entered this country illegally. But it is clearly in this nation's interest to align immigration laws with both reality and its economic and national security interests. The Obama administration is right to push for reform in 2010."
- The right time for immigration reform (view on Google Sidewiki)