Claiming credit on immigration

Different ideas in immigration reform illustrate the divisions in Congress.

Things are heating up in Washington. With elections right around the corner, congressional members are gearing up for campaigns, and of course, scrambling to find an issue for which they can claim credit.

Unfortunately, it seems many – especially congressional Republicans – suddenly have latched onto immigration and made it their hot-button issue du jour. In the coming weeks, there is sure to be contentious debate on both sides of the aisle surrounding the many moral, political and legal issues involved with immigration reform.

Already the House and Senate bills dealing with immigration differ greatly. House leaders have crafted a hard-nosed bill that makes “illegal” immigration a felony, proposes to build a 700-mile border wall and would create a massive deportation campaign. The Senate bill – crafted under bipartisan compromise – addresses border security concerns and offers undocumented workers a path to citizenship. For them it would take 11 years, a clean record, a steady job, payment of a $2,000 fine and back taxes and knowledge of English and civics.

Right now 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States. It would be virtually impossible to deport all of these residents, like the House bill proposes to do. Furthermore, it would be foolish to do so. These immigrants are the backbone of the U.S. economy. President George W. Bush has stated that “illegals” do the work that Americans simply refuse to do.

It is clear many Americans want some sort of immigration reform, and the Senate bill introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is a good compromise but, make no mistake, there is a difference between responsible policy making and irresponsible politics.

The differing bills in the House and Senate are a prime example.

Whereas the Senate bill offers pragmatic solutions, the House bill amounts to nothing more than xenophobia in a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world.