Senate reform on immigration a slow process

Immigration reform is making its way slowly, deliberately, sometimes painfully — almost surprisingly civilly — through the U.S. Senate.

Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 744 on a 13-5 bipartisan vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will bring it to a vote of the full Senate in June.

It could be the most sweeping immigration reform in two decades. Just as significant as what it does for immigration is what it might do for governance, bipartisanship and civility on Capitol Hill.

The bill, drafted by a "Gang of Eight" that included four Republicans and four Democrats, was shepherded by fully half the gang — Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois.

For five days and through 300 proposed amendments (fully 200 of which were actually debated), the four fended off efforts, intentional and unintentional, to submarine the bill. Not even the committee chairman, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, was immune. He wanted to include a provision that would have allowed same-sex couples to have the same immigration rights as heterosexual couples. Seeing it as a deal-breaker, Democrats joined Republicans in defeating the amendment.

Similarly, poison pill amendments by Texas' own Ted Cruz were voted down on a bipartisan basis. One of the GOP senator's amendments would have stripped the path to citizenship; another could have banned U.S. citizens from receiving welfare benefits if they'd ever entered the country illegally.

Overall, we applaud the Senate's bipartisan efforts — a refreshing example of collaboration over conflagration.

This newspaper is disappointed, though, that once again Texas' senators weren't part of those efforts.

Cruz and Sen. John Cornyn cast two of just five votes against the immigration bill. By distancing themselves from the bipartisan compromise, they show a lack of leadership on an issue of vital importance to our state.

The day after the Judiciary Committee pushed the Senate bill forward, the House Committee on the Judiciary held its own immigration hearing. With no bill before it the hearing — titled "S. 744 and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: Lessons Learned or Mistakes Repeated?" — did more to amplify conflicts than resolve differences.

The House seems to know what it doesn't like (Senate Bill 744) but hasn't a clue about what it does (an as-yet-undetermined House bill).

We urge both chambers to get on with the business of crafting bipartisan immigration reform. The country and our state desperately need a fix for the dysfunction that passes as our current immigration system.

— The Dallas Morning News

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