Georgia Says

Savannah Morning News on immigration reform

The immigration reform package that a bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled last week probably won’t be the final product. But it’s a good start.

On the plus side, their proposal would beef up security at the border, toughen immigration enforcement at the workplace, modernize the visa system to speed up legal immigration and create a mechanism so states like Georgia that rely on seasonal workers to plan and harvest crops can tap into a legal labor market.

Everyone should agree that the current system is unworkable. And while illegal immigration may be down right now, it may be a temporary thing.

That’s because of a sour economy, especially in the building trades. Many people who enter this country illegally seek to earn money to support their families in their home countries, where good-paying jobs are rare. When work dries up in the United States, there’s less reason to sneak across the border.

At some point, however, that situation will change — and this nation must be prepared. ...

One positive requirement is that it would tie the full legalization of illegal immigrants to border security benchmarks. Before they could be sure that they would get and keep their legal status, it would have to be shown that the U.S.-Mexico border had been secured and that 90 percent of immigrants attempting to sneak across the busiest sectors were being turned back. That’s a needed safeguard, similar to plugging holes in a leaky boat before bailing out the water.

Finally, it would also create a new guest worker program for people who want to come to this country as farm workers temporarily; those workers would be expected to return to their home countries when their visas expire. This should benefit Georgia farmers who can’t find local people to work.

Passing immigration reform will take some political courage. But it’s needed. Thanks to this bill, the debate can begin.

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