Congress is still in session. Despite outward appearances, it is not shut down or turned off and its members are still capable of reasoned discourse and cooperative efforts for the good of the nation, at least we think so. Or, we hope so. Perhaps immigration reform is not dead.
It should not be. It should be alive and moving. Marches and rallies in some 150 cities Saturday provide testament to the need and desire. Polls make clear the public’s support. Budget squabbles and government shutdowns do not make real issues go away. Immigration reform is no less urgent because the House cannot pass a continuing resolution or Republicans cannot stomach Obamacare. There are still 11 million immigrants living in legal limbo. Their children still await the chance to further their education and gain legal residency in the country where they grew up. There are still crops to harvest. There are businesses in need of highly skilled employees. There are still universities graduating some of the best-educated people on earth, only to see them barred from work in the country where they gained their skills. There is still a minimum 10-year wait, and that is a long shot, simply to obtain an immigrant’s visa to legally perform menial labor in the United States.
There was more evidence of keen public interest at an immigration forum at Wenatchee Valley College a week ago. “There are 11 million people and we are not going to deport them. Period. It’s not just a legal, economic and political question. It’s a moral question. What are we going to do with the stranger among us?” asked orchardist, lawyer and former state representative Dale Foreman at the forum.
The bipartisan comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate in June still sits in the House, where Speaker John Boehner pronounced it dead. The House Democrats last week introduced their own version of comprehensive reform, also pronounced dead on arrival. House Republicans are said to be working behind the scenes on a piecemeal approach, splitting up the comprehensive bill into chunks that might earn the support of a majority of their caucus.
Any way it happens, immigration reform should include a means for highly skilled, and low-skilled, foreign workers to meet the demand for labor here legally. It should include some resolution for the so-called Dreamers, youth brought here as children, who know no other country. It should include some means to legalize the presence of 11 million undocumented immigrants who have lived and worked with us for years and deserve a path to eventual citizenship.
This is the feasible alternative to an unbearable status quo. Common sense should not be rendered impossible by the dysfunction of Congress.
Congress can prove something — that it can still function. Pass immigration reform before the year is out.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner