Courting reform

October 18, 2005

THE WHITE House's courting of congressional lawmakers to gain support for President Bush's immigration reform plan is a good strategy for renewing interest in an important administration policy goal.

Mr. Bush, who could use some legislative success right now, should take advantage of the growing momentum for immigration reform in the Senate by working more closely with key lawmakers such as Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John McCain, who have introduced legislation containing many of the president's proposals, including a guest worker program. The senators' measure has bipartisan support and has been endorsed by influential labor and business groups, including the Service Employees International Union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

By hosting regular immigration briefings for members of Congress, the White House hopes to engage Republicans and Democrats in "an ongoing dialogue about comprehensive, realistic immigration reform" that includes border security, interior enforcement and a guest worker program.

In the House, immigration reform has pitted so-called enforcers (lawmakers who favor tougher border control measures) against reformers (lawmakers who favor more liberal changes to immigration policy). The enforcers have promised to block any legislation that expands immigration or brings guests workers into the country, and recently signed a letter urging the president to focus on border security instead. The president should disregard this advice not only because it fails to take economic realities into account - the immigrants fill jobs - but also because it ignores the millions of undocumented immigrants already living and working in the U.S. It makes no sense to treat them like a shadow labor pool when they could be legal, taxpaying workers.

The House leadership organized "unity dinners" to encourage lawmakers to work out their differences on immigration. Mr. Bush, the self-described "uniter," should use his bully pulpit to push lawmakers in both the House and Senate to act on this important issue.

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