October 23, 2013

Eagle editorial: Lead on immigration

If the U.S. House wants to rebuild its image, it should do want the public wants and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

If the U.S. House wants to rebuild its image, it should do want the public wants and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

And if the members of the Kansas congressional delegation care what local government leaders and leading business organizations want, they should take the lead on reform.

The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform plan over the summer that doubles the size of the U.S. Border Patrol and completes 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. It also requires employers to verify the legal status of workers and provides a three-year pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.

But the bill has gone nowhere in the House, even though polls show that a large majority of Americans favor comprehensive immigration reform and the bill is backed by evangelical and business organizations.

The League of Kansas Municipalities recently endorsed comprehensive immigration reform. “We support a federal solution to immigration reform that allows reasonable access to citizenship while assuring adequate border security and protecting our economy and workforce,” the league said in a statement.

The league’s position mirrors that of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm and 31 other Kansas mayors who wrote to our delegation in August to urge support for comprehensive reform. That letter noted how immigration affects local communities.

“The immigrant population of Kansas includes valued members of our community,” the mayors wrote.

Kansas business groups have also called on the delegation to support reform. The Kansas Business Coalition for Immigration Reform – more than 20 organizations including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Farm Bureau and the Wichita Independent Business Association – endorsed the bill.

“We are pleased with provisions that seek to simplify the immigration process, allow for temporary work visas, create a special agricultural guest-worker program, and provide a path for undocumented persons to remain in the United States, gain work authorization and eventual citizenship,” the coalition wrote.

Though President Obama’s goal of passing an immigration overhaul by Jan. 1 seems ambitious, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told Politico that the speaker “remains committed to a step-by-step process to fix our broken immigration system.”

The GOP House fared so badly in the government shutdown because it listened to a small faction of activists rather than doing what most Americans wanted. It shouldn’t repeat that mistake with immigration reform.

The public wants comprehensive reform. So do business groups and city leaders.

Will House Republicans and the Kansas delegation listen this time?

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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