US can wait no longer for just immigration reform

Controversial develop- ments in the Mahoning Valley and at this country’s southern border this month have jettisoned immigration reform to the forefront of America’s conscience and to the top of the nation’s legislative agenda.

In the Valley, a raid on the Fresh Mark meat-processing plant in Salem on Tuesday resulted in the arrests of about 150 employees who the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency say are undocumented immigrants. The raid, the largest carried out at a workplace by the Trump administration, has unleashed volleys of criticism from politicians, charitable groups and even the Catholic Church.

Nationwide, most Americans have been shocked over the past two weeks by reports of forced separations of children from parents seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border. Fortunately, President Donald Trump did the right thing Wednesday by acting through executive order to end the inhmane practice. The drama continues, however, as some argue the president’s reversal did not go far enough.

To be sure, both of those controversies will continue to simmer for some time. Both also illustrate once again the overall long-standing dysfunction of U.S. immigration policy and highlight the dire need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress has long been AWOL in its repsonsibility to fix the broken system. As we editorialized in January when Youngstown businessman Amer “Al” Adi Othman was about to be deported to Jordan without full due process, immigration reform in this county has been too deeply mired in politics for decades to achieve positive results.

Today a similar drama unfolds in Congress. After the debacle over “tender age” detention centers lighted a fire under House Republican leadership, two bills aimed at reforming immigration policy hit the full House floor Thursday.

Conservative bill

The first, a conservative bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., would grant only temporary protections for so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, the minor children of parents who illegally entered our borders. Fortunately that measure that did nothing to lessen anxiety among so-called DREAMers (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) was expected to die a quick death.

A much more palatable bill, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has been described as a “compromise” between the moderate and hard-right factions of the GOP. Its most attractive feature would allow DREAMers a slow but certain pathway to U.S. citizenship by allowing them to apply for a six-year work authoritzation and then for green cards after five years. It also codifies into law that children would never be separated from parents when families are detained for illegal entry.

At press time for this page, House passage of the comprosime bill looked possible but improbable. Regardless of its fate there, it likely would be DOA in the Senate.

We, therefore, would hope that its basic framework could be used as a starting point for serious give-and-take negotiations between House and Senate members toward crafting a realistic and mutually acceptable comprehensive reform package.

One common ground should be the promise of a route to citizenship for the more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were part of DACA. That provision, in the spirit of compromise, could be balanced with tougher rules of entry for some asylum seekers and funding for Trump’s much ballyhooed wall.

We maintain our stand that there is precious little to fear in providing a foundation for full U.S. citizenship to DACA recipients and other immigrants.

A 2016 study in the Journal of Public Economics found that DACA greatly increased labor-force participation among immigrants without hurting U.S. workers and that DACA has benefited the entire U.S. economy.

Inaction on immigration must no longer be an option. Continued lethargy promises only to produce more distressing images from as far away as our nation’s southern border or as close to home as a business or factory in the Valley.

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