The gloom in Washington was lifted briefly this week when the Senate, acting with rare bipartisanship — and a rarer show of enlightened leadership from President Bush — beat back a series of anti-immigrant amendments and voted to move forward on a comprehensive immigration reform package.
The Senate’s package is a sensible compromise that combines stronger border controls with humane measures to ease the path of immigrants who are here. It includes a guest-worker plan to let immigrants continue entering, as well as a pathway to eventual citizenship for most of the 12 million undocumented immigrants now living here.
Opponents, including a handful of Democrats as well as much of the Senate Republican leadership, had wanted to drop the guest-worker and citizenship provisions and limit the bill to enforcement. They were hoping to see the Senate pass a measure along the lines of the House immigration package, an Orwellian plan that calls for criminalization and eventual expulsion of millions of immigrants. The Senate rightly put its foot down this week.
The president made an important contribution the night before the Senate vote in a televised White House speech, his first ever on domestic policy, calling for a mixture of better border controls and humane treatment of the immigrants now here. His notion of border control, sending the National Guard, is a dangerous and impractical idea and should be rejected by Capitol Hill. What’s important, though, is his larger message, showing Republicans the way to rise above nativist pressures and do the right thing. If this signals the start of a new trend, it’s a welcome one.