- - Thursday, July 11, 2013

A comprehensive immigration reform bill recently passed the Senate by a 68-32 vote — with the support of 14 Republicans. However, House Speaker John A. Boehner and colleagues have publicly declared the Senate bill “dead on arrival.”

Instead, the House plans to create its own bill, and the speaker has also clarified the process by which immigration reform will be vetted. First, bills will proceed through regular order. Second, the bill will get to the floor if and when a majority of the Republican caucus has agreed to support the bill. Third, provisions of immigration reform will be processed on a piecemeal basis under the jurisdiction of Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican.

Opponents of immigration reform are already pounding their chests in victory, forecasting a defeat for immigration reform in the House. However, can we recognize that all of our current challenges will get exponentially worse if we fail to act?

For the sake of our nation, let’s hope the “people’s chamber” is reflective, mature and transparent in its deliberations. There should be no argument that immigration reform is needed and that America is worse off today as a result of Congress not finding a solution five years ago.

Since then, we have not properly secured our borders, our broken legal system has cost America hundreds of thousands of jobs, and an untold number of illegal immigrants have overstayed visas or come into our country unlawfully.

At a minimum, let’s agree that we have de facto amnesty by executive fiat, thanks to President Obama. That is the status quo, so we’re not operating from a blank canvas. Still, some of my conservative colleagues are proposing a more politically expedient option to our House conservative membership: Kill the bill. Do nothing. What’s the rush?

Is that what we conservatives want to be known as — the “no” movement?

The immigration challenges in America are a big deal. How long can this country continue to afford to postpone energy, tax and immigration reforms until “later on”? The issues need to be addressed with the sense of urgency, conviction and resolve that the circumstances warrant.

I am a first-generation American. When my family arrived in this country in the 1960s, approximately 80 percent of its citizens were white. If I reach my life expectancy, white Americans will be in the minority by then — in just one generation. Whether we act, or fail to act, in passing immigration reform, this will be an irrefutable fact.

If we proceed with conviction instead of fear of change, we can ensure that the values of our Founding Fathers live on for generations to come.

If we turn our backs to the challenges ahead and just say “no,” in a few years we will not have 11 million, but 20 million illegal residents in our country — with billions more to be paid in benefits, billions of tax dollars lost to an underground economy and millions of jobs lost to global competitors.

There is a conservative solution to our broken immigration system. Find it, debate it and pass it in the House. To say “no” would be a cop-out and an inference that the House majority is incapable of applying conservative principles to resolve challenges facing America. There are conservative answers to broken borders: border enforcement, verification of employment, legal immigration with labor prioritization and, yes, a solution to the status of 11 million illegal immigrants currently in this country.

There are also a lot of liberal, unnecessary “pork spending” provisions in the Senate bill that just passed. All of that waste needs to be removed from the House version of immigration reform.

I support efforts in the House to create a more market-based legal immigration system rather than the limited, labor union-driven, restrictive quota system accepted by the Democrat-led Senate; to strengthen E-Verify provisions; and to confirm limitations on benefits to those granted legal status. If you have been watching the activity level at the Judiciary Committee, you should be encouraged with the progress on these issues.

If these steps are taken up by our leadership sooner rather than later, then one should be optimistic that a good House bill will go to conference with the Senate proposal.

With respect to the status of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, we are faced with four choices: 1) Say “no” and continue with de facto amnesty, 2) adopt the Senate’s path to citizenship proposal, 3) pass a work-permit legal-status alternative, or 4) call for mass deportations.

De facto amnesty is against the rule of law and mass deportation is unworkable. A majority of Republicans need to settle this issue in caucus meetings so that the immigration bills can proceed with confidence through “regular order.”

Let’s get to work. Let’s get this done.

Al Cardenas is chairman of the American Conservative Union and a former two-time chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

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