Friday, June 23, 2006

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Immigration reform? Run!

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Immigration reform? Run!
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published June 23, 2006

Just when it seemed like a fix to the country's immigration crisis might not be out of reach, the House of Representatives has decided it would rather run from the problem.

Instead of meeting with the Senate to try to reach a compromise on two very different immigration bills, House leaders plan to hold hearings around the nation, then take a nice August recess and ... oops, sorry folks, we're out of time. We'll get right back on that immigration thing as soon as the election is over ...

"We are going to listen to the American people," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said, explaining the decision to set up a traveling road show rather than stay in Washington and negotiate a law.

It seems unlikely that House leaders genuinely believe they need to hear from the American people at this point. If ever a group had its mind made up about something, it's the House Republicans on immigration. For months they've insisted they have a finger on the pulse of the public, and that the public wants a secure border, period. None of this "earned citizenship" for illegal immigrants that the Senate has proposed.

The decision to go back out and re-check the public's pulse pretty much kills the chances for passing an immigration reform bill this year, but Hastert & Co. apparently find that more attractive than compromise. "Listening to the American people" has a nicer ring to it than Hastert's earlier pronouncement--that no legislation would be brought to a floor vote unless it was favored by "a majority of the majority." But the result is the same: nothing.

There are two possible explanations for the foot-dragging: 1. House leaders are certain the American people agree with them or 2. They aren't. If you subscribe to No. 1, the logic is simple: Why even try to solve the problem in September if you can bang that drum all the way to November? If you're worried about No. 2, well, it's safer to stall. Either way, the House seems cynically confident that voters won't call the members on it.

There is one thing the American people have said loud and clear, and with near unanimity: The immigration system is badly broken. People are not so much polarized over immigration reform as they are conflicted. It is at precisely such times that political leadership is needed. Too bad the House has decided to hit the road instead.


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