- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

May 3

News & Record, Greensboro, North Carolina on fixing immigration:

Republican Congressman Robert Pittenger from Charlotte takes a careful, conservative and reasonable position on illegal immigration. First, secure our borders, the freshman 9th District representative says. After that, however, he says it’s necessary to bring millions of illegal immigrants out of the shadows:

“Undocumented workers who desire to stay in the United States should be offered the opportunity to register with local authorities, providing fingerprints or other physical identification in exchange for some sort of work permit or legal status, but not citizenship.”

For statements like that, Pittenger has been attacked by his Republican primary opponent and targeted for defeat by an anti-immigration group that says he favors “amnesty.”

Second District Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers is in the same position as Pittenger. Her primary opponent says immigration is the biggest obstacle to economic growth and prosperity. Ellmers, too, supports “amnesty,” he says.

That’s not true for either Pittenger or Ellmers, but the word sticks in the ears of many Republican voters as a title of surrender to unauthorized, uninvited newcomers who take American jobs and use American services and maybe even cast illegal votes in American elections.

These prejudices explain why the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives won’t touch an immigration-reform bill, especially in an election year. Pittenger and Ellmers are two of the few who are brave and honest enough to really address the central issue.

It isn’t that borders should be made secure or that people caught entering the country illegally should be sent straight back where they came from. Most people support strong border enforcement, and those kinds of deportations are happening in impressive numbers.

The harder question is what to do about the 10 million or more people who already live in this country without legal status. Many have U.S.-born children, who are therefore American citizens, and many have jobs, pay taxes and lead decent lives - although often in fear.

Pittenger, Ellmers and others recognize this issue and are willing to address it. So is President Barack Obama; so was President George W. Bush.

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill last year that toughens enforcement of immigration laws but also provides a smoother path to long-term legal status for people who meet certain standards. The Republican majority in the House objects, preferring to ignore the problem of the millions living here without legal status. Many of these Republicans hope - seriously - that those millions just go away.

This position will be strengthened if Republicans like Pittenger and Ellmers lose their primaries to challengers who refuse to consider the question or who label attempts to find reasonable solutions as “amnesty.”

There are people who promote amnesty as one way to move forward. President Jimmy Carter chose that path to resolve the status of Vietnam War-era draft evaders. There were critics, but the action helped the country heal old wounds.

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