EDITORIAL: Reform Anyone?

A new Congress and an old issue: comprehensive immigration reform.

Reform as an issue and question has been with us for decades now. The last time that the U.S. stood on the threshold of meaningful reform was in 2013 when the Senate passed the so-called "gang of eight" bill. It was a bipartisan measure that was ultimately consigned to the legislative trash bin by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

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The new House has a slim Republican majority and there are members on both sides of the aisle who take the idea of truly meaningful reform seriously. Alas, there are many members who see immigration as a border security issue, and little beyond that.

This was Roberto Suro, professor of journalism and public policy at the University of Southern California writing recently in the Washington Post, and just before the new Congress assembled: "When Congress adjourns this week without repairing our dysfunctional immigration system, a generation-long quest for a bipartisan grand bargain will die, and we will enter an era of mounting chaos, economic losses and tragedy. What we now see at the southern border is just a foretaste.
"During the past two years, a multitude of options were available — some sweeping, some specific. Immigration is not in search of unknown cures. Yet nothing was done about the major maladies. That’s a bad outcome in ordinary times; it is a disaster when an immigration system, in crisis for more than a decade, is now imploding. Don’t look to the future for hope. When Republicans take control of the House in a few weeks, a handful of hard-liners who countenance nothing but walls and deportations will control the agenda."

As if to confirm this view here is a report in recent days on Fox News: "Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, is introducing a bill that would block illegal immigrants from entering into the U.S. until the border was under 'operational control' -- just as the House Republican caucus is eyeing a number of legislative and oversight moves related to the besieged border now they have the gavel.

"Roy re-introduced this week 'The Border Safety and Security Act' which was first introduced last year and would authorize the Homeland Security Secretary to suspend the entry of illegal immigrants into the United States, if he determines it 'necessary in order to achieve operational control' of the border.

"The legislation would also require the suspension of entry of illegal immigrants if the Department of Homeland Security cannot either detain them or place them into a program like the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which required migrants to remain in Mexico while their hearings were underway. The bill currently has 49 co-sponsors in the House."

Fair enough. Order at the border is for sure desirable. But immigration is an issue at many levels and with many contexts. The United States has to walk and chew gum at the same time when it comes to immigration, immigration reform, dealing sensibly, fairly and humanely with the migration crisis, and so much more.

But Congress, not just the present one, has consistently shown itself to be the chewing gum variety alone. That has to end.

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