Opinion Columns & Blogs

Editorial: Time to bring immigration reform to a vote

As Thanksgiving Day came and went, activists fasted on the National Mall to highlight the cause of immigration reform.

Their target: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. If he would bring the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill to a vote in the House, it would likely pass.

That certainly was the outcome when Boehner finally brought a resolution to the House floor during the 16-day government shutdown. A majority voted to reopen the government.

Boehner, however, has made it clear that he is not looking for a majority vote. He will bring legislation to the floor only if it has a majority of Republican votes.

He should remember that the office of speaker is in the U.S. Constitution. Boehner is supposed to represent the House as a whole, not just the Republican caucus – or the small tea party faction in the Republican caucus.

The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration package (S 744) on a 68-to-32 vote in June.

House Republicans have made noises about passing piecemeal immigration reform legislation to send over to the Senate. But, unfortunately, they refuse to allow a House-Senate conference committee even to consider the Senate’s bill.

Boehner went along with that: “I’ll make clear that we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.” Will not even negotiate. Period.

Then on Nov. 21, Boehner said immigration reform was “absolutely not” a dead issue. Yet he has scheduled only eight days of work in the House for December, promising to go home on Dec. 13 for the year, with no date for a vote on immigration reform.

Just bring S 744 to the House floor for a vote and see if a majority supports it.

If it fails, then do something else.

President Barack Obama, in San Francisco just before Thanksgiving, spoke about the bureaucratic mess of the current immigration system, which drives illegal immigration: “I hear from folks who have been separated from their families for years because of green card backlogs who desperately want their loved ones to be able to join them here in America. I hear from young DREAMers who are Americans through and through in every way but on paper, and they just want a chance to study and serve and contribute to the nation that they love.”

Americans understand this and they want action. Many sympathize with the young man who shouted during Obama’s speech, “Mr. Obama, my family has been separated for 19 months now!”

The president made a plea: “What I’ve said to the speaker and others is, don’t let a minority of folks block something that the country desperately needs. We can’t leave this problem for another generation to solve. If we don’t tackle this now, then we’re undercutting our own future.”

California has a huge stake in reforming the current immigration system. As the California Chamber of Commerce and more than 40 local chambers wrote in a letter to members of Congress earlier this year, “resolving the immigration status of 2.6 million California residents would unlock billions of dollars of consumer spending and investment and help the state recover from the lingering effects of the recession.”

This is yet another test of whether majorities, or a tea party minority, rule in the House. Immigration reform can pass by Boehner’s Dec. 13 deadline if he will bring it to a vote.