The next step has been taken to fix our nation’s broken immigration policies with the release of the House Republican’s immigration reform principles. I was present at Capital Hill last spring when a bi-partisan group of Senators made an earlier step forward by introducing Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation. The Senate later passed this as a bill on June 27, 2013.
The Senate’s steps last year – while positive – did not bring us to the end of the race. The House’s steps towards immigration reform – while positive – remain principles, not an approved bill and a long way from becoming law. These differ greatly, but I am not prepared at this stage to say irreconcilably.
At least there is acknowledgment that specific issues need to be addressed. From my perspective, one of the values of the House’s reform principles is that they identify most of the critical issues facing our nation’s immigration system. I also believe strongly that the ways they propose to address these issues need much debate. They also, in my judgment, fall short in certain important areas of comprehensive solutions needed and articulated by many including the Catholic Church.
Having said that, I say let the debate and negotiations begin. Clearly the bill already passed by the Senate is more concrete. The House principles still need to be translated into legislation.
I suggest that a good place to begin negotiations is for both sides to stipulate two things:
- Nobody in this debate is reading from their private tablets of Commandments delivered by God from the mountaintop.
- Nobody’s positions have been inspired by the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
A positive outcome, while not assured, is necessary. There are many interests and many strongly held positions that at least on the surface seem almost impossible to reconcile. But sides have been further apart on other issues and the process of genuine negotiation has produced results unimaginable at the outset.
So let the negotiations begin in earnest. The continued strength of our nation – for immigrants to the United States and native-born Americans – depends upon it.