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Viewpoints
Debra Saunders
Immigration reform can be simpler
Article published on Tuesday, July 9, 2013
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The Senate is so out of touch that some leaders think the way to pass a path-to-citizenship bill for immigrants in the country illegally is to budget $40 billion for extra immigration enforcement over the next 10 years. This is the type of cynical ploy that makes everyone hate Washington.

The Senate wants to reward people who have broken immigration law – and then tell voters it’s OK because it wants to spend billions more to enforce the laws it will have overridden. The Heritage Foundation panned the Gang of Eights measure – with amendments, it runs more than 1,100 pages – as a massive, sweeping, complicated bill that works at cross-purposes to its stated goals.

Supporters say the bipartisan Senate bill would make immigrants in the country illegally stand in the back of the line, pass a background check and pay fines and back taxes to qualify for citizenship. The process would take 13 years.

Senate Democrats might say they are willing to live with a 13-year waiting period before applicants can register to vote, but you just know that they’ll try to find ways to change the law or allow authorities to ignore it. It’s not fair to the 4.4 million people waiting to immigrate legally, argued Heritages Jessica Zuckerman.

GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota sponsored a border surge amendment, which, sorry, only reminds voters how feckless immigration enforcement is already, when there is no path to citizenship for immigration scofflaws.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is desperate to pass the bill because, he warns, if Congress does not pass a big immigration bill, the Republican Party will alienate Latino voters further. I agree that the GOP has to find ways to reach out to Latino voters. This bill could not do it, however, especially because Republicans have announced that they’ll vote for the measure only if Washington spends billions to secure the border. Those who see illegal immigration as a function of a porous border ignore the fact that an estimated 40 percent of those in America illegally entered legally and then overstayed their visas.

During the 2012 election, President Barack Obama deftly played the immigration card. He signed an order for a temporary Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed some young adults in the country illegally to apply for work permits and avoid deportation.

That action was in concert with the president’s support of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, legislation that would provide citizenship to young people whom, as children and through no fault of their own, entered America illegally with their parents. These kids never set out to break immigration law; the government should not punish them for their parents’ decisions. These kids want to live the American dream, just as they want to honor their parents’ sacrifices.

House Republicans should feel free to ignore whatever mega-bill the Senate approves. Instead of a Senate-lite bill that would legislate in opposing directions, the House should focus on measures that would address distinct problems. Let members start by passing a DREAM Act to legalize adults who didn’t break the law because they were too young to consent.

Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com.
Article published on Tuesday, July 9, 2013
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