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Senate immigration bill passage lives up to nation's commitment

Posted: July 6, 2013 - 11:07pm

The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Thursday, July 4:

The U.S. Senate delivered a gift to the nation last week in the form of an immigration reform bill that has the potential to fulfill the promise of what it means to be an American for millions of longtime U.S. residents who are stuck in limbo.

We are not so dewy-eyed as to believe that members of the Senate acted for purely patriotic reasons.

Republicans who got behind the measure know their party has a dim future as long as Hispanic Americans believe the GOP is blocking immigration reform. Democrats and President Obama, meanwhile, need to show Hispanic voters that they are capable of enacting reform — and reaping the political benefit in coming elections.

Nor do we think passage of an immigration reform bill by Congress is a sure thing.

The Senate measure faces obstinate opposition in the House of Representatives, where Speaker of the House John Boehner has already signaled that he will bow to the wishes of his Republican caucus no matter which way the chamber’s majority is leaning. This means that if most GOP members don’t support comprehensive reform, the measure won’t come to a vote even if it could pass with a combination of Democratic and Republican votes.

Talk about a party shooting itself in the foot! This is both short-sighted and self-defeating. It caters to the hard-right sentiment of voters who control GOP primaries, but it puts the party on a permanent losing trajectory with the rising number of Hispanic voters. That’s a losing proposition if ever there was one.

But for the moment, set aside the bleak scenarios and take time out on this most patriotic of holidays to savor the moment. This is a nation of immigrants, as those who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 well knew. Over the years, America’s vitality has been refreshed time and again by waves of immigrants who brought their aspirations and their energies to our shores.

As Sen. Marco Rubio so eloquently put it in his remarks on the Senate floor just before the bill went to a vote, “They have come because in the land of their birth, their dreams were bigger than their opportunities.” And so they came to America, to embrace a country big enough to encompass those dreams and generous enough to allow them to be fulfilled.

It should be a special mark of pride for Miami and South Florida that two of its legislators are at the forefront of the fight for reform, perhaps because they know in their hearts that this is the right thing to do.

They have lived the immigrant experience and understand the yearnings of immigrants and their dreams because of personal familiarity. They come from a place that has been transformed by immigration into one of the nation’s most vibrant communities.

In the upper chamber, Sen. Rubio was instrumental, first, in writing the bill in a bipartisan effort with seven other senators, and then in getting it passed.

In the lower chamber, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has been waging a quiet but determined effort behind the scenes to give immigration reform a chance. Like Mr. Rubio, he realizes that his party has a big stake in the outcome. And he knows that the problem will persist even if Congress fails to deal with it.

“Ignoring that reality does not make it go away,” Rep. Diaz-Balart told a panel discussion in Washington last week. May the holdouts in the GOP embrace reality.

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