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Immigration reform: Ho hum

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In this April 15, 2019, photo, migrant mothers and their children gather at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Mexico. (AP Photo/Patricio Espinoza)
In this April 15, 2019, photo, migrant mothers and their children gather at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Mexico. (AP Photo/Patricio Espinoza)

As he prepared to board a flight back to Washington, D.C., last week, Sen. James Lankford knew one issue he would not have to concern himself with was immigration reform.

Ideas are bandied about regularly, by the White House and members of Congress, regarding how to deal with the flow of migrants on the southern border. But movement on broader immigration policy? That’s nonexistent, and has been for some time.

“I would like to hope, but I’m skeptical,” said Lankford, R-Oklahoma City. “For one thing, there are better moments to do it than 18 months before a presidential election.”

Yet 18 months before an election or 18 months after one, it doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the need for something to be done, this issue goes wanting. The last major piece of reform legislation was the Immigration Reform and Control Act, passed in 1986.

Early in the Trump administration, it appeared something might transpire. Trump announced in September 2017 that he was canceling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which was created by former President Barack Obama in 2012. DACA protects from deportation roughly 700,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

Trump gave Congress until early March 2018 to fix it, and the deadline provided a sense of urgency. But it didn’t foster a solution. DACA wound up getting woven into budget talks that led to a brief government shutdown, and later four immigration bills were rejected by the Senate.

Three of the bills included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came here as children, called “Dreamers,” something Trump had supported. Other details, including funding for a border wall, were included in some of the bills as well, but ultimately none of the four received the 60 votes needed for passage.

Soon after, court rulings provided Congress with considerably more time to work on fixing DACA. As a result, “basically everybody just went into pause,” Lankford says. “There’s a national ho-hum on it.”

The need is urgent for a better immigration system for those wishing to enter the country legally. The strong U.S. economy has resulted in far more jobs available than there are people looking to fill them. Whether it’s expanding the number of high-tech visas available to U.S. companies, or improving the guest worker program to benefit the farming and food-processing industries, changes are needed.

However, making those changes requires a willingness by both sides of the aisle to give a little, and neither has shown much interest in doing that. Particularly since, as Lankford said, immigration “makes the phones melt down in Washington.”

Few members are willing to abide that sort of heat if they don’t absolutely have to, and at present they don’t have to. Thus, immigration reform remains unrealized. Ho hum.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›

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