WHAT OTHERS SAY: Immigration reform is not a free ride

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:47 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This nation of immigrants is on the cusp of figuring out a just and fair path forward for the 11 million undocumented persons living in the shadows.

It’s time.

It’s time to accept that despite good intentions on securing our borders, those seeking a better life for themselves and their families have been drawn to America for decades, even if it meant skirting legal paths and risking lives. A bipartisan compromise immigration reform bill crafted by the U.S. Senate’s “Gang of Eight” deserves passage.

It makes sense financially and morally. The Congressional Budget Office last week said the bill would increase real GDP by up to 3.3 percent in 2023 and by 5.4 percent in 2033.

Morally, it helps secure the future for children of illegal immigrants, many of whom know no other country. It means undocumented workers will be responsible for paying taxes, beyond what their employers may now withhold under the assumption they are legal workers.

This isn’t a get-citizenship-free bill. Immigrants with clean records who would be eligible to get in line would face fines, back-of-the-line waiting lists, requirements to show knowledge of civics and English, and more conditions before obtaining “lawful permanent resident” status after 10 years. That’s a long line and a long wait, not amnesty.

And yet, some are still trying to derail comprehensive reform. Missouri U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt attempted to throw a wrench into progress, co-sponsoring amendments that call for ever-more-costly border security measures and unwieldy congressional oversight to slow changes. Both Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts voted against advancing the bill Monday, as did Blunt, leaving them in the minority. Another vote on the needed bill is expected later this week.

What opponents don’t like to mention is how much tougher the Obama administration has been on deportations than previous administrations and how much more border security is already in place.

A perfect border security system is a pipe dream. Its backers are stalling, burnishing their credentials with the far-right, anti-immigrant crowd. Meanwhile, employers are in a pinch for laborers and highly skilled workers as America awards too few legitimate work visas for industries and farms.

The U.S. Senate is hoping to pass an immigration bill by July 4, a fitting symbolic date for advancing the independence of a nation now trapped by outdated laws.

Copyright Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.

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