An emerging compromise on immigration reform in the Senate offers the best opportunity to finally pass legislation that gives undocumented workers legal status to stay and work, while tightening border security and cracking down on businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
The compromise scales back what many Democrats had pushed for — creating an immediate “path to citizenship” for the 11 million people in the country illegally. Instead, they would have the chance — barring a criminal record — of instantly gaining legal status to live and work in America.
For the GOP, the plan provides for better border security, improved monitoring of visitors and a crackdown on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
A key to any legislation will be to create a dependable system of checking the status of a potential employee — the E-Verify system.
The current E-Verify system is filled with problems. The federal electronic system uses Social Security numbers and other data that businesses can use to confirm a job applicant is legal to work. But using the system is voluntary for most business and only required for federal contractors.
Businesses have argued that E-Verify is inaccurate, leaving them open to penalties even when they use the system.
The system needs to be easy to use, accurate, mandatory and carry meaningful penalties for violation if the country is ever to get to one of the root causes of illegal immigration, which is industries dependent on cheap, illegal workers looking the other way when hiring.
The compromise is by no means going to have easy sailing through Congress. Already many conservative members oppose the plan.
Tea party-backed Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, said the compromise would “contemplate a policy that will grant special benefits to illegal immigrants based on their unlawful presence in the country.”
Still, many GOP members, including Sen. John McCain, realize their party must get behind meaningful reform. They recognize their party’s poor standing with Hispanic voters helped seal their losses in the last election.
“We realize that there are many issues on which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens, but this is a pre-eminent issue with those citizens,” McCain noted.
The compromise offers the best hope in decades of the country finally regaining control over its immigration process.