Back to chaos.
By voting to kill a compromise immigration reform bill last week, the U.S. Senate ensured the continuation of the dysfunctional status quo for at least another two to three years.
As a result, 12 million undocumented immigrants will continue living in the shadows, fearful of deportation and exploitation. Federal immigration officials will continue to conduct raids, such as last month's sweep in Portland, that needlessly and pointlessly disrupt U.S. businesses and traumatize immigrant communities. State and local governments will continue to fill the void in national leadership on immigration reform with an incoherent mishmash of laws.
The Senate bill was far from perfect - so far that it's tempting to regard the procedural vote that squelched the legislation as a mercy killing and to suggest Americans might be better off if Congress delays immigration reform until a future session.
But the Senate bill would have done much to fix this nation's fundamentally broken immigration system. It would have provided illegal immigrants with a realistic way to step into the sunshine and become legal members of American society. It would have dramatically upgraded border security and put real teeth into workplace enforcement. It would have provided the U.S. economy with more and better qualified legal workers.
There's plenty of blame to go around for this bill's defeat. Thirty-seven Republicans, including Oregon's Sen. Gordon Smith, 15 Democrats and one Independent voted against this painstakingly crafted bipartisan compromise. To his credit, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., voted to keep the bill alive.
The bill's defeat was a victory for those who irresponsibly denounced it as providing "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. That was simply and patently untrue. The legislation required that immigrants pay hefty fines and fees and take other steps before they could apply for legal residency and later for citizenship. That's not amnesty by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, "amnesty" better describes what we have now.
The defeat was also a searing and humiliating rejection for President Bush, who has made immigration reform a priority since first entering the White House in 2001. Perhaps more than any other issue, the defeat of immigration reform reveals how completely the Iraq war has eroded the president's power and his ability to craft a domestic agenda.
With the 2008 presidential elections looming, Congress will now almost certainly wait two or three years before it again attempts to grapple with comprehensive immigration reform.
That will mean the 12 million undocumented immigrants already in this country will be forced to remain underground, while tens of thousands more continue to arrive every year, some dying in border wastelands along the way. Without the bill's $4.4 billion in spending for enforcement, this nation's borders will remain dangerously porous. U.S. employers will continue to hire illegal immigrants without being required to verify their legal status. And U.S. companies that need to bring in foreign high-tech workers may shift those jobs overseas without the temporary visa program that the reform bill would have provided.
The Senate bill offered enormous gains at the cost of difficult yet acceptable compromises. But lawmakers failed to exhibit the bipartisanship, statesmanship, courage and vision necessary for passage.
As a result, America will continue reaping the immigration whirlwind better known as the status quo.
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|Title Annotation:||Editorials; Senate buries immigration compromise|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jul 3, 2007|
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