Anyone who still has illusions that a legislative solution to immigration — both legal and illegal — is possible before the next election wasn’t paying attention last week.
Paul Ryan, the newly installed speaker of the House, ruled out any comprehensive reform of the immigration system as long as President Obama is in office.
“I don’t think we can trust the president on this issue,” Ryan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and other programs. “I do not believe we should advance comprehensive immigration legislation with a president who has proven himself untrustworthy on this issue.”
Ryan was referring to Obama’s attempt to give temporary legal status and work permits to as many as 4 million illegal immigrants by executive action, bypassing Congress.
We concede that the president’s action, creative as he found it, was an egregious overreach of executive authority.
And the courts agree. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last summer upheld a lower court’s order blocking implementation of the order. The appeals court said the action goes beyond reasonable prosecutorial discretion allowed the executive branch by taking the affirmative action of conferring “lawful presence.”
The president does not have the authority to grant work permits and temporary legal status to immigrants. The Constitution (Article 1, Section 8) gives Congress sole power to “establish a uniform rule of naturalization.” Only Congress can change the law.
That it has consistently refused to take action does not change the Constitution and allow the president to do so by fiat.
Still, the law needs to be changed and the fate of the 12 million immigrants living in this country illegally — and the industries that depend upon their labor — must be decided.
Republican leaders must rise above their pique and either in small bites or comprehensive fashion begin to address the issue.
Not to chastise without providing a solution, here are some tangible points to a plan that should be considered:
• Congress should offer illegal immigrants willing to register temporary legal status and a path to permanent residency after 10 years if they meet strict requirements — no prior felony convictions, no violations while awaiting residency, learn to speak English and pay a fine and back taxes. Those not meeting the requirement should be deported.
• As penalty for entering illegally, those made permanent residents should not be eligible for citizenship.
• We think the border must be secured. A viable guestworker program must be established, and employers must verify the work status of their employees.
It seems to us both parties are happy to use immigration as a wedge issue for the 2016 presidential campaign. To that end, a resolution now probably wouldn’t serve their interests.
But this situation has dragged on long enough and won’t be improved with the passing of yet another election.
We repeat ourselves in stating that the choice is simple: Make them go, or let them stay.
One way or the other, do it now.