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Immigration bill

Published July 11, 2013 4:30 pm

Senate bill is best approach
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Gallup poll in June showed Americans have the lowest level of confidence in their representatives in Washington in 40 years.

When you listen to Utah's House delegation talk about immigration reform, it's easy to understand why.

Freshman Rep. Chris Stewart says the law should never grant citizenship to those who illegally crossed a border or overstayed a visa. Rep. Jason Chaffetz says he "couldn't care less" that the Senate bill passed on a bipartisan vote.

The Senate bill outlines tough requirements for undocumented immigrants who want to become citizens and it tightens border security substantially — at a substantial cost to taxpayers. But the Republican-controlled House appears more concerned about politics and re-election next year than in doing the right thing.

Orrin Hatch, Utah's senior U.S. senator and a Republican, voted for the bill and has said the time is now to solve this problem and the Senate bill is the only practical way to do it. Sen. Mike Lee opposed the bill, calling it amnesty for the 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country.

Chaffetz and many House Republicans say they would rather address the issue piecemeal than to consider the Senate bill, which was created through a well-thought-out process of debate and compromise. In fact, just the sort of good, old-fashioned governing that seems beyond the ability of the lower chamber.

House Republicans are focusing on separate bills involving border security and the temporary-worker program for highly skilled immigrants. They seem unwilling — ideologically or politically — to tackle the most important question: legal status for the millions now in the U.S. illegally.

Next year House members will face voters and, in many conservative districts, support for any kind of path to citizenship, and in some cases even to legal status for people who are in the country illegally. To do so can mean defeat at the polls.

That leaves millions of people in limbo, and leaves the GOP with the anti-immigrant label that is a growing liability in national politics. Republicans' continued refusal to compromise on pathways to citizenship will keep Latino voters away, giving the Democratic nominee in 2016 the same advantage that helped President Barack Obama win re-election last year.

Immigration reform that improves border security and also brings illegal immigrants out of the shadows would boost the U.S. economy, as recent studies show. The Senate bill would accomplish both, and it's shameful that House Republicans refuse to even consider it.