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Page: Obama’s immigration frustration

Clarence Page

Republican fury over President Barack Obama’s drastic executive action on immigration distracts from the most obvious solution: the sensible compromise that senators from both parties passed more than 500 days ago, only to have it bottled up by Speaker John Boehner in the House.

It has one major flaw, as far as House Republicans are concerned: Obama likes it.

“I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix,” the president said in his Thursday immigration speech, “and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense.”

“It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line,” he said.

“And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.”

It would also add drones, watchtowers, camera systems, ground sensors and 700 miles of fencing along the Mexican border.

All of this would have to happen before the first eligible migrants would receive “green cards” for permanent permission to live and work here.

That’s what conservatives say they want: stronger border security before clearing any more immigrants for a pathway to legal status.

If Boehner let a bill like that come up for a simple up-or-down House vote it would pass, but probably not with a majority of Republican House members supporting it.

Even before the Senate bill passed last year Boehner said he would not bring up any immigration compromise for a vote unless it was supported by a majority of House Republicans — and he’s sticking to it.

Although all sides claim to be interested in fixing at least one part or another of our broken immigration system, nothing has gotten done since the Senate bill went to the House.

Without Congress, all the president can constitutionally offer is a temporary reprieve to millions of people who now live in a legal limbo.

“Temporary” means they can live and work in the United States without fear of deportation, until this president’s time in office runs out.

By then, his action could be an election issue. Then the voters can decide who offers real solutions, not just more problems.

Clarence Page writes for The Chicago Tribune.