Angry immigration debate doesn’t address the problem

It isn’t surprising that Congress will be going on August recess without having tackled the emotionally charged issue of immigration reform. After all, President Obama indicated early on that he would not push for a comprehensive bill this year.

In May, we said the president’s decision was ill-advised because it would result in Arizona’s controversial law targeting illegal immigrants sparking a national debate that would be superficial at best, and political at worst. And that’s exactly what has happened.

Republicans looking at public opinion polls see immigration as an issue that will enable them to regain the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives which they lost to the Democrats in 2006. That is why they dismiss any talk of comprehensive immigration reform. Asked if it’s time for Congress to act, GOP leaders insisted that before there is any legislative initiative, the border between Mexico and the United States must be secured.

The problem is they don’t specify how this security is to be accomplished within a reasonable period. One of the ideas that seems to appeal to an increasing number of Americans who are looking for simplistic solutions is to assign National Guard or other military units to border patrol.

We reiterate our position that if there’s a need for more agents patrolling the southern border or the northern border, the federal government should hire and train them.

They would have been in place by now had Congress done the right thing three years ago and passed the immigration reform bill pushed by then Republican President George W. Bush and supported by most Democrats in Congress.

However, Republicans and enough Democrats opposed the bill and it died. Had it become law, there would have been $4.4 billion in immediate additional funding for securing our borders and enforcing our laws at work sites.

But opponents succeeded in characterizing the initiative as an “amnesty bill” and were able to block passage.

Thus today, Arizona and other states are taking the law into their own hands. But immigration is a federal issue that must be addressed by Washington. A state-by-state approach to dealing with the influx of illegal aliens is a recipe for disaster. In addition to which, such initiatives do not address the issue of the 12 million illegals already in this country.

Last week, a federal appeals court decided not to step into the controversy over Arizona’s tough immigration law until November, leaving state officials to consider other steps they might take in the meantime.

Tweaking the law

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the law and appealed a ruling blocking its most controversial sections, said Friday she would consider changes to “tweak” the law to respond to the parts U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton faulted.

In her temporary injunction Wednesday, Judge Bolton delayed the most contentious provisions of the law, including a section that required officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws. Bolton indicated the federal government’s case has a good chance at succeeding in its argument that federal immigration law trumps state law.

The legal battles will continue, the politics of immigration will keep dividing the nation, and no substantive changes will be made.

Members of Congress who will be spending the next month or so in their home states and districts, if they aren’t on junkets, need to hear from their constituents — that the time for comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue.

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