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Editorial: The time for immigration reform is now

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks alongside (from left) Sen. John McCa(R-Ariz.) Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) during Monday press conference

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks alongside (from left) Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) during a Monday press conference on comprehensive immigration reform at the U.S. Capitol. | SAUL LOEBSAUL~AFP

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Updated: March 1, 2013 7:41PM

After years of going nowhere, immigration reform has shot to the top of the Washington agenda. Finally, there is a serious chance that Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike — will agree on a realistic path to citizenship for some 11 million illegal immigrants and hammer out a practical plan to secure the nation’s southern border.
Let’s get it done.
Before uncompromising extremists can trash up the debate.
Over the weekend, a bipartisan group of eight senators, including Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), outlined a plan that combines a path to citizenship — the Democrats’ first priority — with securing the border against future illegal immigration — the Republicans’ priority. That each side is willing to accept the other’s pre-condition is a big step toward doing a deal.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama is expected to lay out his own immigration proposal, which aides said will resemble his plan of 2011. It likely will call for a faster citizenship process than the senators are proposing, with securing the border being less of a pre-condition.

The senators’ plan mirrors one that went nowhere in 2007, but the politics have changed. Obama won re-election with 71 percent of the Latino vote, compared with 27 percent for Mitt Romney. GOP leaders fear their party can’t survive without Latino support.

Meanwhile, in the Republican-controlled House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also is backing immigration reform, a strong sign of how things could go differently there than in 2007.

The sad stories under our current system stretch to every corner of the country. Mistreated workers are afraid to complain for fear of deportation. Families are torn apart when a parent is picked up for a minor infraction and deported. Children grow up knowing no other country but the United States, but still are denied citizenship.

The senators’ bipartisan plan begs many questions. How long would immigrants have to wait to become citizens? How can low-wage guest workers be invited into the country without antagonizing unions? Would a national identity card be necessary? Do we really want drones patrolling our borders, as the senators envision?

These are big questions that require creative and interdependent solutions. Fortunately, the bipartisan working group agrees immigration reform must be comprehensive, not piecemeal.

Somewhere in all these stirrings is true and bipartisan immigration reform.

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