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Time for reform

What a difference an election can make.
The goal of immigration reform, seemingly unreachable for so many years, now appears within the grasp of Washington lawmakers and President Barack Obama. Even Republicans concede that their poor showing among Hispanic voters in November is a big factor in the new bipartisan push on this issue.
Whatever the cause, the resolve to finally fix the nation’s broken immigration system is welcome, indeed.
The statement of principles unveiled Jan. 28 by four Democrats and four Republicans-and praised a day later by Mr. Obama-is a framework that encompasses both stronger border security and a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Those who are in this country illegally but otherwise do not have a criminal background would be able to live and work in the United States by passing a background check and "settling their debt to society by paying a fine and back taxes."
Individuals with this status would have a chance to earn a green card eventually, but they’d need to start at the rear of the line of prospective immigrants. What’s more, they would need to pass an additional background check and fulfill other requirements such as learning English and documenting a history of work in this country.
To win support from those who are reluctant to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants, the framework calls for steps to secure our borders-and its proposed enforcement measures must be deemed complete before anyone on probationary status can earn a green card.
Support that spans a wide political spectrum does not guarantee passage. Some GOP House members oppose any "amnesty" bill. And while the bipartisan framework is quite specific, drafting legislation with details acceptable to both sides no doubt will be devilishly difficult.
We must finally get this done, though. Even if you think our country is not harmed by 11 million people living in the shadows, consider this: Immigrants’ share of U.S. business startups is more than twice their portion of the nation’s population. Think Intel, Yahoo and Google.
It’s time to do the right thing and help fuel economic growth.

2/8/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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