Today's Dallas Morning News editorializes in favor of the proposed compromise immigration bill. Here is the editorial:
Good Starting Point
But immigration plan will need some work
The fact that the Senate will return to immigration this week is a political miracle of sorts. Sharply divergent points of view - and we mean really sharp - have stalled the debate for an entire year.
Thanks, however, to brutal negotiations involving the White House and dedicated senators from both parties, the Senate will start with a bipartisan bill. Deserving of Texans' thanks for renewing the debate are President Bush, who has kept the issue alive in speeches, and lead Senate negotiators Ted Kennedy and Jon Kyl.
As an editorial board that has pushed hard for immigration reform, we think this bill is a good place to begin - but with the understanding that major work is still to be done:
The selling points
Border security: The plan doesn't wink at ratcheting up border security. The addition of 18,000 border agents and 70 new radar towers will help take the lawlessness out of the southern border. So will the resources to detain 27,500 aliens a day.
We have never been wild about a border fence, but the 370 miles of fencing and 200 miles of road barriers should satisfy those who think a wall will reduce the flow of illegal immigrants. In fact, border hawks should like that many security measures must be in place before a new temporary worker program starts.
Enforcing the worksite: One of the best parts is the new electronic identification system. Employers will know if they are hiring legal workers. There's too much uncertainty today when it comes to worker IDs. The situation in Cactus, Texas, proved that.
Unlike the current system, all workers must prove they are here legally. Under the new system, employers would run their info through a new national verification database. If those on the job aren't legal, the employers are fined and the workers are fired.
Pathway to citizenship: Mr. Kyl, a Republican, has reversed course and acknowledged that there's no way to correct our immigration problems without giving the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living here a chance to earn citizenship. More power to the man for stepping forward, knowing many will scream amnesty.
Illegal immigrants seeking citizenship must pay a $5,000 fine, possess a job, undergo a background check and wait eight to 13 years before becoming a citizen. They don't jump to the head of any line. In fact, they can't earn citizenship until all current applications are approved or rejected.
They can eventually earn citizenship, though, and that's crucial to getting immigrants to come out of the shadows.
What needs work
Temporary workers: 400,000 foreign workers could qualify for employment visas annually. That essentially matches the number of foreign workers who come here illegally each year.
There's a catch, though, that could make the provision unworkable. Temporary workers could earn three two-year work visas. In between each two-year stint, they would have to return home for one year.
The risk with the return-home requirement is that some workers may go underground and stay here. We would prefer that senators amend the bill to match the House plan, which has no return-home provision for temporary workers.
At the least, senators should amend it so more exceptions can be granted to workers in high-demand industries. That would minimize the temptation for some workers to go underground.
Green cards: Fortunately, temporary workers could earn a green card after their work stints end. But that could become a mirage if the Senate doesn't include enough cards that let workers stay here legally. (Green cards allow for legal permanent residency, not citizenship.)
The Senate would be foolish to ignore reality. Temporary workers with good jobs probably will stay here, even if they can't get a green card. So it's important to have enough cards to go around in order to know who is actually here.
This proposal represents an improvement over the status quo, but it's not the endgame. We urge Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to address these shortfalls this week.
The next few months will be like crawling through broken glass, as Frank Sharry of the National Immigration Forum aptly put it Friday. But Washington must grit its teeth and work through the pain if the nation is to finally fix our broken immigration system.STILL NOT SOLD? Why border hawks should like the Senate plan:
* 18,000 new border agents
* Ends "catch and release" of illegal immigrants
* 70 new radar towers
* Resources to detain 27,500 illegal immigrants a day
* An electronic verification system for all employees
* Illegal workers lose their jobs
* Employers face big fines