The Garden City Telegram
4/20/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Reform plan

Lawmakers take step toward compromise on immigration.

Federal lawmakers dodged the hot-button issue of immigration reform far too long.

Most everyone would agree that change is in order. But the issue became so divisive in recent years that it was easier from a political standpoint to avoid taking a stand that may be right, but unpopular with some Americans seeking a more heavy-handed approach.

A lack of meaningful action in Congress even led policymakers in some states — Kansas included — to consider their own ways to address those who entered the country illegally.

So, it's encouraging to see real steps toward reform at the federal level, where immigration policies should be addressed.

A new, bipartisan immigration bill out of the U.S. Senate would overhaul the immigration system by ushering in new visa programs for low- and high-skilled workers, requiring a tough new focus on border security, instituting a new requirement for all employers to check the legal status of their workers, and installing a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

More emphasis would be placed on employment opportunities, and hopefully address labor needs in places like western Kansas, where dairies and feedlots are among businesses that rely on immigrant workers.

Not surprisingly, criticism of the Senate bill came from both sides of the aisle.

But if there's to be meaningful change, no one will get everything they want. They'll have to compromise.

And therein lies the problem. Too many lawmakers — especially in the U.S. House — have an all-or-nothing approach, the kind of thinking that has hindered progress in Washington, D.C., and statehouses nationwide.

Unfortunately, First District Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, and others of the hyper-partisan tea-party persuasion have resisted any compromise with those outside their circle.

They should know illegal immigration and its fallout aren't Republican or Democratic problems. They're national problems.

Critics on both sides should embrace the need for a bipartisan plan to move toward comprehensive reform that would deliver reasonable controls on immigration along with strategies to address labor needs.

At least some in Congress have acknowledged as much, and deserve support as they move toward long overdue immigration reform.