McCain, Flake leading way

 Workable immigration reform – January 29, 2012
The Republic –

Arizona’s senators are leading. Arizona will benefit.

As part of the bipartisan group of eight who stood up for immigration reform, Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake began solving a problem that has hurt Arizona for years.

They are highly qualified to guide this effort, with a full history and understanding of the complexities.

Crafting specific legisla­tion that embodies the princi­ples outlined Monday will mean wrestling with the dev­ils of detail. But the frame­work is there.

That’s more than just a start. That’s real progress.

McCain pointed out that this multipronged effort is not much different from the com­prehensive package he helped craft with the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy in 2005.

The re-emergence of com­prehensive immigration re­form as a bipartisan goal is long overdue.

A lack of a guest-worker program to meet labor needs is the biggest reason illegal immigration increased after 1986 reforms that included President Ronald Reagan’s amnesty program.

The nation needs a guest­worker program that is robust and responsive to market demands without disadvan­taging or displacing American workers. This framework reflects that.

A reliable system for em­ployers to check the immigra­tion status of job applicants is also critical. The framework reflects that, too.

The most controversial part of the plan creates “a tough but fair path to citi­zenship” for millions of men, women and children living in this country without proper immigration documents.

“We cannot continue as a nation with 11 million people living in the shadows,” McCain said.

Those who have long op­posed comprehensive reform instantly screamed: Amnesty! This is the tired, old battle cry that has long been used to stall progress.

Political realities suggest it has lost its power. During the press conference to announce the framework for reform, McCain pointed to the high stakes. “The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens,” he said.

Democrats also feel the push of politics. President Barack Obama, who bene­fitted greatly from the Latino vote, will offer his immigra­tion proposals today. We hope they demonstrate a desire to foster cooperation and com­promise.

Beyond politics, this is about the nation’s need for immigration policies worthy of our commitment to human rights and dignity. As McCain reminded his party years ago, undocumented immigrants are God’s children, too.

What’s more, the nation’s security is best served by knowing who is here.

The plan devotes a great deal of emphasis to border security, promising more resources for an effort that already has seen years of extensive expenditures on infrastructure, technology and Border Patrol agents.

We are intrigued by the idea of establishing a commis­sion of border political and community leaders to monitor progress toward securing the border. The voices of those most closely affected should be heard. But this committee should not become an exer­cise in moving the goal posts or retreating to a security­first model.

Been there. Done that.

It’s past time to move be­yond the status quo. This bi­partisan framework does that.

The support of Arizona’s two senators gives compre­hensive reform added credi­bility in Congress and puts Arizona at the forefront of fixing an immigration system that has enormous human, economic, environmental and social costs for our state.

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