- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2008

Thanks to the energetic work of Republicans and some sober-minded Democrats, the House may indeed get to vote on immigration reform legislation worthy of the name sometime soon. The bill is the SAVE Act (H.R. 4088), introduced by Rep. Heath Shuler, North Carolina Democrat, which aims to dramatically reduce the number of illegal aliens in the United States through stepped-up enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. Mr. Shuler’s bill offers a detailed blueprint for achieving this, which includes increasing the number of border patrol agents and providing incentives to recruit and train them; hiring more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to strengthen interior enforcement; and hiring more federal judges to hear cases against people who smuggle drugs and humans. (Read today’s Op-Ed “Forging immigration reform” by Mr. Shuler and Rep. Brian Bilbray.)

All of this sounds like common sense to us, and in all likelihood to the majority of Americans, who, polls show, oppose mass amnesty and want U.S. immigration laws enforced. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the House Democratic leadership are open-borders advocates who want no part of the SAVE Act, and have thus far managed to keep the bill buried in the Judiciary Committee. To get around this roadblock, supporters of the SAVE Act need 218 signatures on a discharge petition to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. As of yesterday afternoon, according to NumbersUSA, they had 169 signatures — 161 Republicans and seven Democrats — who had signed the discharge petition. (Updated totals are available at www.numbersusa.com.) It is likely that many of the 38 Republicans who had not signed as of yesterday will do so in the coming days. The critical question is what will happen with the Democrats — there are more than 30 of them who have signed on as cosponsors of Mr. Shuler’s bill who have thus far been unwilling to take the next step: signing the discharge petition.

And as Mr. Shuler and Mr. Bilbray write in this section today, the SAVE Act also would expand the E-Verify program, a Web-based system that cross-references information such as Social Security numbers to ensure that a worker is legally in the United States. The program is already being used voluntarily by 56,000 American employers; the SAVE Act would phase it in for all employers over a four-year period. Having E-Verify in place benefits American workers currently faced with unfair competition from illegals. And it would also free employers from having to function as forensic document experts, poring through workers’ personal information and work history in an attempt to discern whether someone can legally work in the United States. “Making E-Verify mandatory will protect American workers and law-abiding businesses from the unfair competition created by a massive illegal workforce,” Messrs. Shuler and Bilbray write.

The SAVE Act offers a reasonable “middle ground” solution — something between the sort of mass-amnesty solution embodied by last year’s failed Senate immigration bill and the “mass deportation” strawman conjured up by amnesty advocates. In the coming weeks, many rank-and-file Democrats will have to make a very difficult choice: carry water for Nancy Pelosi or respond to the legitimate concerns of their constituents.

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