Seattle Times: Congress must prove it can govern, beginning with immigration reform

This op-ed was written by OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz.

Late last year President Obama used his executive authority to break the political stalemate on immigration reform. This is welcome news for Washington state’s communities and families, including industries — particularly agriculture — that depend on immigrant labor.

Under the president’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, immigrants in the country illegally and without criminal records who can prove that they have lived and worked in the United States for five years will be able to apply for temporary legal status and the authorization to work legally for up to three years.

This spring, about 5 million immigrants without documents — nearly half of the estimated total living in the U.S., including some 77,000 in our state — may finally be able to stop hiding in plain sight, at least temporarily, and begin to contribute fully to our economy and society.

In Seattle, on the eve of the president’s announcement, a mother without documents named Lisette bravely stood side-by-side with U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and described what this announcement could mean for her and her family.

After having kept her legal status a secret from even her children, Lisette stepped forward and envisioned a time in the near future when she would be able to find a job she is qualified for and live without the persistent fear that at any time she could be detained, deported and torn from her loved ones.

The president’s actions were in direct response to pressure from immigrant communities nationwide, dismayed by inaction on comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. After more than a year of debate and false starts, the U.S. House took no action on its own version of a bipartisan bill that passed the U.S. Senate in 2013. That came despite numerous assertions that congressional leaders made — including the House Republican Conference Chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane — that they personally agreed with the need for reform.

This failure demonstrated that the reins of Congress — and the national Republican Party — were in the hands of a hard-line minority bent on blocking any sensible, long-term solutions that would compassionately deal with the 11 million immigrants living in the United States without legal status.

This trend continued last week when House Republicans added several amendments to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security spending bill to try to repeal the president’s actions. While these amendments are unlikely to survive the Senate, the House also voted to strip temporary legal status granted by the president in 2012 to more than 500,000 undocumented children who came here as minors and are already pursuing educational opportunities and contributing to our economy. This last measure was more than what 26 Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, could stomach.

Read the rest of this editorial by OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz!

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