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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, June 11, 2007

Get the job done on immigration reform

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After watching chances for passing a bipartisan immigration bill crumble, along with his opportunity to tuck a major accomplishment into his legacy folder, President Bush is turning up the heat.

And it's about time.

Bush plans to meet with Republican senators tomorrow to try to salvage support for the sweeping immigration reform bill, after it failed to secure the votes needed to move to a final vote.

With no fewer than 30 amendments still percolating in the Senate, getting the measure passed will clearly be no easy feat. Senators on both sides of the political aisle will have to give up more than they may be comfortable with.

But after enduring a failing system, which for decades has forced millions of illegal immigrants into the shadows and separated many hardworking families, Congress owes it to taxpayers to come up with sensible immigration reform.

To be sure, the bill is not perfect. But it does rightly address some key areas. Some of the elements that should be preserved include adding some 6,000 agents to Border Patrol forces to deal with our porous borders, and addressing the mind-numbing backlog of nearly 5 million applicants seeking to reunite with families, who in many cases have been waiting more than 20 years.

Now the tough part. Democrats should continue to push for some key fixes. For example, fees for visa applicants are far too high, topping $6,000 in some cases. That's much too steep for many immigrants working in painfully low-paying jobs.

Perhaps the biggest challenge will be in retooling the selection criteria for coveted green cards. The bill shifts the focus from family reunification to a meritocracy-based system. There must be a better balance in that regard. Too many families have been pulled apart by the system.

With nearly 12 million immigrants waiting in the wings and after decades political failures, it's time for members of Congress to roll up their sleeves and work together. Taxpayers deserve sensible immigration reform. Further delays and partisan bickering just won't cut it.