Thursday, March 30, 2006

A good immigration bill?

A good immigration bill - Editorials & Commentary - International Herald Tribune
The New York Times


Here's one way to kill a cow: take it into the woods in hunting season, paint the word "deer" on it and stand back.

Something like that is happening in the immigration debate in Washington.

Attackers of a smart, tough Senate bill have smeared it with the most mealy-mouthed word in the immigration glossary - amnesty - in hopes of rendering it politically toxic.

They claim that the bill would bestow an official federal blessing of forgiveness on an estimated 12 million people who are living in the United States illegally, rewarding their brazen crimes and encouraging more of the same.

The bill, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 12-6 vote on Monday, is one America should be proud of.

Four Republicans, including the committee's chairman, Arlen Specter, joined eight Democrats in endorsing a balanced approach to immigration reform.

The bill does not ignore security and border enforcement.

It would nearly double the number of Border Patrol agents, add resources for detaining illegal immigrants and deporting them more quickly, and expand state and local enforcement of immigration laws.

But unlike the bill's counterpart in the House, which makes a virtue out of being tough but not smart, the Specter bill would also take on the hard job of trying to sort out the immigrants who want to stay and follow the rules from those who don't.

It would force them not into buses or jails but into line, where they could become lawful residents and - if they showed they deserved it - citizens.

That's not "amnesty," with its suggestion of getting something for nothing.

But the false label has muddied the issue, playing to people's fear and indignation, and stoking the opportunism of Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader.

Frist has his enforcement-heavy bill in the wings, threatening to make a disgraceful end run around the committee's work.

The alternatives to the Specter bill are senseless.

The enforcement-only approach - building a 700-mile wall and engaging in a campaign of mass deportation to rip 12 million people from the national fabric - would be an impossible waste of time and resources.

It is a weak country that feels it cannot secure its borders and impose law and order on an unauthorized population at the same time.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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