Congress must enact real immigration reform

The Republicans are right about one thing: comprehensive immigration reform should be achieved through a bipartisan legislative process. So, that begs the question, why hasn’t the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the bipartisan Senate bill passed with GOP support last year?

Answer: Because despite all their drama-queen outrage over President Obama’s intention to take unilateral action to fix our broken immigration system, Republicans are not interested in a functional Congress. They’re just against anything that Obama supports.

Republicans have had ample opportunities to lead the conversation on reforming federal immigration laws. They rejected reform bills in 2006, 2007 and 2014.

And here we must credit Senate Republicans for working with Democrats to get last year’s comprehensive bipartisan immigration legislation passed in the Senate. It was an excellent bill encompassing border enforcement, updated immigration rules and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented adults and children already here.

But the radical right wing in the House that controls Speaker John Boehner have refused to let the measure come up for a vote. The GOP fringe at the root of congressional gridlock knows that the bipartisan bill would have passed with the support of moderate House Republicans.

So, instead of intelligent, effective leadership, the right-wing gang has engaged in fear-mongering. In their paranoid world, terrorists are streaming across our southern border. Illegal immigrants are carrying deadly diseases. Immigrant children are infected with Ebola.

After six frustrating years of such nonsense, Obama has finally concluded these people aren’t ready to accept reason, and don’t care about smart public policies. So, for the good of the nation, the president must take executive action.

And yet, the action Obama announced late last week is unsatisfying. The president’s action is carefully calculated to go only to the edge of his executive limits, but not beyond, so that Republicans have no room for a winnable legal challenge. Of course, that isn’t likely to stop this obsessed bunch from trying.

Only Congress can create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Only Congress can welcome the parents of children, the so-called Dreamers, who are now residing here legally. Only Congress can grant undocumented immigrants access to health insurance.

Only Congress can create a legal agricultural workforce, which the business community supports and is vital to our economy here in Washington. Only through congressional action can employers stop working around outdated laws to hire farm workers, restaurant employees, construction and landscaping crews.

It’s true, Obama’s action adds fuel to this simmering six-year political fire. But you would think a party that espouses family values would see the merit in keeping hard-working, loyal-to-America families together, and that it would cringe when indiscriminate deportations tear children and parents apart.

Instead of fighting Obama, threatening lawsuits and impeachment, Republicans should seize this moment to control the conversation and win back support from the Latino community. They should point out the shortcomings of the president’s executive action, and pass comprehensive reform that fixes Obama’s shortcomings.

True immigration reform is something only Congress can do. We sincerely wish they would.