Our View: legalization = immigration reform

Thursday , February 07, 2013 - 10:40 AM

Editorial Board

It appears that comprehensive immigration reform may finally become a reality. The key to a bill that has bipartisan support, and the tentative approval of the president, is making legalization, rather than citizenship, the status of millions of illegal aliens.

A path to legalization, whether defined as a guest-worker program or a permanent residence status, is a common-sense solution to the longstanding dilemma. There are millions of illegals in the United States who need to exit the murky status of illegality, with the fears of arrest and potential for abuse by employers.

There will be the implied assumption that illegal immigrants who gain permanent residence status will never lose that privilege, so long as they obey the laws of the land. That is the great Republican Party capitulation to this issue.

It’s a necessary surrender for various reasons, both practical (we need to keep track of these immigrants) and political (the GOP’s long hard-line stance on immigration is harming its appeal with Hispanics).

Although the legalization proposal is the most important part of comprehensive immigration reform, the bill also comes with provisions that enjoy widespread support, such as tougher border enforcement and forced deportation for criminal illegals and future permanent residence aliens who break the law. There may even be enough momentum to finally pass the Dream Act. Time will tell.

A smooth, fast path to citizenship for the millions of illegals who live here will be a casualty of the compromise that is being forged. There are both practical and political reasons for this. Most persons are still uncomfortable with the idea of illegals being pushed ahead of others — who have followed the law — in receiving citizenship. Politically, Republicans are in no mood to face an onslaught of new Hispanic citizens who, based on recent voting trends, are likely to vote Democratic.

Nevertheless, the immigration compromise is great news and, if successful, can be logged as a significant achievement for President Barack Obama.

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