Editorial: President nudges immigration policy in proper direction

2012-06-17T00:05:00Z 2012-07-15T20:12:09Z Editorial: President nudges immigration policy in proper directionBy the Editorial Board stltoday.com
June 17, 2012 12:05 am  • 

We need you.

That was President Barack Obama's message to about 800,000 young graduates of American high schools on Friday when he signed an executive order delaying their potential deportation.

These young people, most of them Hispanic children and young adults who were brought to this country by their parents, have faced deportation to their home countries because Republican politicians are too hard-headed to adopt the pro-family, pro-jobs DREAM Act.

That common sense piece of legislation, championed by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is aimed at young people who have been educated in our schools, have no criminal records and already are contributing to our economy. They'd be allowed to stay in this country, go to college, get jobs and begin the arduous path to becoming American citizens.

Some of them joined the military and fought for our country's cherished freedoms, yet too many Republicans still want to kick them out. It's shameful.

"We need them," Mr. Durbin said in 2007 when he argued unsuccessfully on the Senate floor for the DREAM Act. It failed then, and it failed again in 2010 in the form of an amendment to another bill.

Mr. Obama's action acknowledges that America's convoluted web of immigration laws not only is broken, but it also is working against the country's interest. It must be fixed.

Some thoughtful Republicans agree. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has been a longtime supporter of Mr. Durbin's bill. Former President George W. Bush fought against the extremists in his party who merely want to put up a fence and send the foreigners away. And Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is considered to be high on the vice presidential short list, also supports a version of the DREAM Act.

On Friday, Mr. Rubio called Mr. Obama's executive order a 'short-term answer to a long-term problem."

He's right. But it's his party that standing in the way of finding a long-term solution to the country's broken immigration policies.

Republicans also are right that Mr. Obama's executive order looks like a blatant ploy to win Hispanic votes in the November election.

We hope it works. If Hispanics rally to Mr. Obama's side and are key to his reelection, then Republicans could be forced to defy the extremists who have punished hundreds of thousands of young people for the failures of politicians who've had decades to devise a workable immigration policy.

In 2005, Missouri's two Republican senators, Christopher "Kit" Bond and Jim Talent, did for Jefferson City's Marie Gonzalez what Mr. Obama is doing now for hundreds of thousands of young people like her.

They convinced the Department of Homeland Security to delay her impending deportation so that she could finish her studies at college. Ms. Gonzalez graduated from Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. She's married, working and living in Kansas City.

Helping her was the right thing to do then. Helping others like her is the right thing to do now. America cannot succeed if it turns its back on its immigrant roots and shuns young people who merely want to follow their dreams.

We need them, now more than ever.

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