April 26, 2013
San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News
Opponents of immigration reform, including Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rand Paul of Kentucky, want to slow down legislation in the wake of the Boston bombings. It’s no surprise; politicians exploit news events for political gain all the time. But the hypocrisy in this case is particularly transparent.
If these lawmakers see a way — or a reason — to have prevented 8-year-old Dzhokhar and 15-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev from entering the country 10 years ago, when their parents were granted asylum, we’re all ears. It appears the brothers were not radicalized until fairly recently. One spent his formative years in U.S. schools and won a college scholarship. Short of barring Muslims, what could an immigration system have done to screen out these kids?
Grassley, Paul and others grasping this excuse to delay reforms do not want to fix the immigration system. They don’t want to make it easier for tech companies and farmers to get the workers they need, or to bring 11 million immigrants living among us out of the shadows. They want to kill reform, and they know endless delay is a good way to do it.
Senators concerned about the safety of Americans should be for reforms now on the table. The bipartisan proposal reflects years of work with a heavy focus on national security.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a sponsor, said Sunday: “In our bill, when you come into the country, it goes into the system, and when your time to leave the country expires and you haven’t left, law enforcement is notified.” If the policy had been in place before Sept. 11, 2001, authorities could have discovered some of the 19 hijackers who had overstayed their visas.
The proposal still needs some work. The fees it proposes for undocumented immigrants to become citizens are awfully high. The rules should do more to help families stay together, since tight relationships are often the key to an immigrant’s success in America. And reforms must allow gays and lesbians to bring their partners to this country.
But when it comes to what really matters — the things that business, labor, immigrant rights advocates and law enforcement have been clamoring for — this proposal is spot on.
It spends $5 billion tightening the border. It improves the guest worker program so that employers can fill jobs Americans won’t do. It encourages the best and brightest college graduates to remain here to start careers and businesses. It provides a quicker path to citizenship for members of the military and college students brought here as children.
Most important, it offers a path to citizenship — the only realistic option — for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living here.
Nothing that happened in Boston last week changes the urgent need for these reforms.
The above editorial appeared in the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News on Monday.