by Laurie Roberts – January 29, 2013
The Republic – www.azcentral.com
Welcome back, John McCain. It seems like just yesterday that McCain was facing a tough re-election bid and long-jumping to the right of J.D. Hayworth. “Complete the danged fence,” he said in a 2010 campaign ad. Three years — and one presidential election in which the GOP got a glimpse of its future — later, the McCain of old is back. The sound bite has given way to a sweeping proposal, a statement of principles aimed at doing something, finally, about illegal immigration in this country.
“What’s going on now is unacceptable,” McCain said on Monday, sounding like the senior senator circa 2006. “The reality that’s been created is a de facto amnesty. We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawns, serve our food, clean our homes and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.”
So says the senator who just two years ago opposed an effort to enact the Dream Act.
Three things occur to me.
No. 1. It’s nice to see Arizona — ground zero for the illegal- immigration debate — leading the way once again, giving voice not just to the vexing problem but to a realistic solution.
Both McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake are back on board for immigration reform, and that’s no easy place for a Republican to be, not even in post-Russell Pearce Arizona.
No. 2. The framework released Monday offers a decent starting point for compromise. There is, after all, something for everybody to hate.
Democrats won’t be happy that it could take literally decades before those here illegally could gain citizenship.
Republicans won’t be happy that they could ever gain citizenship.
No. 3. The hard right will scream the “A” word, and they’ll be right. This is amnesty. Talk all you want about fines and back taxes and waiting at the back of the line. Those who are here illegally will get to stay here legally.
And, really, there is no other choice, unless we as a country are prepared to do the things it would take to deport 11 million people.
Short answer: We aren’t. We can’t and still be America.
Which is why it’s such a pleasure to hail the return of John McCain. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the senator who teamed up with the late Ted Kennedy to spearhead reform in 2006.
That reform died in the House. It could again. Of course, now there is that added selling point — the very real prospect that Latino voters could send Republicans the way of the Whigs.
“Elections,” McCain said Monday, in explaining why he is optimistic that reform is possible this time.
“The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens, and we realize that there are many issues on which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens. But this is a preeminent issue with those citizens.”
It should be a pre-eminent issue for us all.
The devil’s in the details, but this plan, in addition to having something for everybody to hate, has plenty to like.
It would immediately lure people out of the shadows, offering the prospect of eventual citizenship — a smart move given that history has shown it’s generally a bad idea to create a permanent underclass.
It would require that the border be deemed secure — apparently by a commission that includes Southwestern governors and people who live along the border — before those here illegally could obtain green cards and thus get on that path to citizenship.
It would require creation of an employer verification system that actually works, something reform of the 1980s lacked, as we have seen 11 million times over.
It would provide a better visa-tracking system and allow immigrants who come here to get advanced degrees in science and engineering to stay here, contributing to the country that educated them.
It also would allow a future flow of low-skilled workers as the economy dictates, though how we avoid the pitfall of holding down wages for American workers is a crucial question yet to be answered.
Another crucial question: Are there enough pragmatic Republicans in Congress to end the winking and the nodding and fix, finally, our broken immigration system?
Before the screaming begins, I would ask those who already oppose this proposal to answer two questions: If not now, when?
If not this, what?
Read this article at http://www.azcentral.com