Our Editorial: GOP must seize moment on immigration deal

The Detroit News
Demonstrators rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) outside the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 21.

Republicans facing an uphill battle to hold their congressional majorities this fall should not leave Washington for the summer without enacting comprehensive immigration reform that includes relief for the so-called Dreamers.

The moment is ripe for a compromise that restores the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, adopts common sense policies for legal immigration and gives President Donald Trump enough additional border security and enforcement resources for him to assuage his base.

Republicans should move now, rather than go into the fall campaigns having to explain to voters why they have been unable to reach agreement among themselves on how to resolve this urgent issue.

House Speaker Paul Ryan met with the GOP caucus late last week in hopes of coming up with a plan to forestall a threat by centrist Republicans to join with Democrats in pushing ahead a discharge petition that would force a series of floor votes on immigration.

Michigan Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, were among the Republicans demanding movement. They are right to do so, and should be commended for their leadership.

This should not be so hard. A bipartisan majority in Congress agrees that DACA immigrants must be protected. These are people who have grown up in this country, are Americans in every way except legal status and, for the most part, are contributing to an economy in desperate need of workers.

Voters overwhelmingly support giving them legal status and a path to citizenship. Continuing to use them as pawns in the overall immigration debate is a risky strategy heading into the mid-term elections.

Trump, who also backs legal status for the Dreamers, is holding out for funding for the physical wall he wants on the southern border. He made the wall a key promise in his presidential campaign.

But a wall doesn't have to be a physical barrier, as both Upton and Trott have reminded him. More money for advanced surveillance technology, including drones, and  beefed up border forces would accomplish the same goal. Coupled with tougher enforcement of immigration laws they would continue the steep downward trend in illegal immigration posted since Trump took office. 

Round out a package with a policy for admitting new immigrants that best meets the nation's economic needs.

Certainly, America should never turn its back on desperate refugees seeking protection from life-threatening conditions at home.

But it also should not be opening its doors wide open to all comers. No nation does that. Diversity lotteries and chain migration should be severely curtailed in favor of a more carefully structured plan for adding new citizens. 

 U.S. employers are starving for high skilled workers. First priority should be given to those talented immigrants who can work in fields where there are a shortage of trained Americans.

Workers are also needed at the entry level of the economy. Some northern Michigan vacation spots are already having to restrict operations in this tourism season because they can't find enough help. Agriculture is also experiencing a severe worker shortage.

A vigorous guest worker program should be a key piece of immigration reform.

Again, these are solutions on which there is broad, bipartisan agreement in Congress. And there is also motivation to get it done before the election.

If Ryan can't produce an intra-party compromise, centrist Republicans should carry out their threat to  join Democrats in finally passing comprehensive immigration reform.