Immigration reform isn’t a hot-button issue in North Dakota. Our good relations with our northern neighbor, Canada, are our point of reference rather than the illegal-worker contested southern border with Mexico. But addressing immigration reform would benefit North Dakota on a couple of counts.
By moving what has been an enormously contested national issue through the U.S. House and Senate, the congressional pump might be primed for further action on critical issues — debt, spending, the economy, a farm bill — all issues important to North Dakotans. Further, we assume immigration reform would mean that soldiers from the North Dakota National Guard, who have been assisting the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Arizona and, now, in Texas, could come home.
It seems the need for immigration reform has hit a critical mass for Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The time, proponents of reform say, is right to push reform to the forefront. There’s more agreement on what might constitute immigration reform than there is over budgets, debt and government spending.
The Republican effort, key to passage in the U.S. House, runs along the lines of tightened border security, employer checks and a path to legal status for non-citizens illegally in this country that includes fines and payment of back taxes. It includes an acknowledgement that there must be pragmatic methods of coming to terms with the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.; it must be a means that’s “earned,” with a goal that’s “attainable.” President Barack Obama alluded to immigration reform in his second inaugural address.
Pushing conservatives in the U.S. House is a coalition of business, evangelical and law enforcement leaders. At the same time a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators is backing comprehensive immigration reform in that chamber. It includes Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mike Lee, R-Utah. In addition, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Cuban American, has spoken in support of immigration reform.
North Dakota’s congressional delegation ought to be supportive as well. Although possible, passage will not be easy.
The soldiers from North Dakota have not been idle participants of border security. They are credited, between March and October, with seizing 15,000 pounds of drugs and apprehending more than 1,000 people. They have participated in 10 search-and-rescue missions. Still, we would like to see them come home.
Congress should make that happen.