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Editorial: Nation deserves open immigration debate

Published: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 12A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2013 - 11:51 am

In one of the few bipartisan efforts in the U.S. Senate, four Republicans and four Democrats have crafted what would be the first major overhaul to the nation's immigration laws since 1986.

Senators and the American people deserve public hearings and a vote on this complex 844-page bill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled hearings on Friday and Monday, but the naysayers – posing oddly as supporters – already are poised to delay the bill into oblivion.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has a long history of these tactics on past efforts at immigration reform, is leading the charge. These senators are calling for an "open process." Yet that's what committee hearings are.

They say the process shouldn't be rushed. Yet in our representative system of government, public hearings – where the public may vet the bill and the issues involved – is the proper process.

Not surprisingly, Cornyn is up for election in 2014. Unfortunately, like many Republicans, he is tacking right to forestall any challenge from the tea party.

During 2007, when he was facing election in 2008, Cornyn issued statements that sounded supportive of a bipartisan immigration overhaul introduced by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., with the support of President George W. Bush.

Cornyn proposed "poison pill" amendments that killed that fragile bipartisan effort.

We can't let 2013 be a repeat of 2007.

Somebody should make Cornyn aware of the changing dynamic among Latino voters, and the impact on Republicans. In 2012, Latinos were an estimated 22 percent of the voters in California, a decisive voting bloc. They were also a factor in key battleground states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado.

Do Republicans in the U.S. Senate really want to allow Cornyn to relegate Republicans to minority status as the Latino voting population continues to grow – including in his home state of Texas?

A Pew Research Center poll in March shows that while Americans remain divided on details, they are more open to immigration reform than in the past. Significantly, 76 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States if they meet certain requirements.

Yes, the Senate should carefully consider all parts of the 844-page bill in public committee hearings. But beware Texas senators bearing immigration gifts. As Sophocles wrote, "Foes' gifts are no gifts: profit bring they none." This much overdue immigration bill deserves a fair hearing and a vote on the Senate floor.

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