The Senate has voted 68-32 for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that, while imperfect, provides a road forward for the United States on an issue that has vexed the country for far too long. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., voted to take that step forward, while Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., voted to maintain a current circumstance that almost everyone agrees is a mess.
We agree with Baldwin on this issue.
While she admits that this particular immigration reform measure is a compromise, the Democratic senator correctly observes: “This bipartisan solution fixes a broken system and will help families pursue and realize the American dream. Immigration is a vital part of our American story, and immigrants should continue to have the opportunity to help build a stronger future for themselves and our country.”
Specifically, Baldwin says, "The bipartisan Senate plan puts in place a pathway for earned citizenship for undocumented individuals who are currently here living in the shadows. The measure builds on our efforts to strengthen border security. It reduces our deficit over the next 10 years by $175 billion and by an additional $700 billion in the following 10 years. This plan provides our Wisconsin agriculture economy a stable, secure workforce. And reform provides students who were brought to our country as children, who have worked hard to earn a high school diploma, the opportunity they deserve to contribute to their communities by attending college, serving in the military, or starting their career.”
Johnson gripes that even with this measure, “more illegal immigrants will come to this country.”
In fact, the measure that’s being considered will reduce the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country. Some will still come. But the numbers will be lower and Johnson and his colleagues should recognize this reality.
After leaving immigration issues unresolved for so long, the Congress really should not make the perfect the enemy of the good.
The good news is that Johnson is the outlier.
Prominent Republicans, including the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and a potential 2016 nominee, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, voted for reform.
If the pattern of strong Democratic support for reform combined with significant Republican backing continues in the House, the legislation will pass and it will be signed by the president.
Congressman Mark Pocan, D-Madison, is on board, saying: “Our nation has always been built on the concept of inclusion and openness, and I am pleased that the U.S. Senate today passed bipartisan and comprehensive immigration reform legislation. This bill takes important steps to ensure we can keep families together, have a road map to citizenship for new American immigrants, and that all workers are treated fairly. The time is now to act on a new, common-sense immigration process, and I urge the House to move on this matter as soon as possible.”
Congressman Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Congresswoman Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, should be “yes” votes.
The same goes for Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, who along with Rubio has been an outspoken backer of reform.
But other Republicans in the Wisconsin delegation may need some prodding.
We hope that they will take their counsel from 46 Wisconsin legislators who have made a rare and important bipartisan call for all members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation to support immigration reform.
“We don’t have the luxury to wait for the perfect bill,” explains state Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, an organizer of the effort. “The families in my Assembly district who continue to be divided by our irrational and burdensome immigration framework don’t have that luxury either. The time to act is now and I think the bill to pass is this one.”
The Wisconsin legislators offer a variety of perspectives on why the bill should be passed.
State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, a Democrat who represents much of Milwaukee’s burgeoning Latino population, says: “We know that reform will strengthen our economy, and strengthen our country’s future.”
State Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, says: “We can secure the borders, and in so doing, I think we’ll solve many problems that the federal government has allowed to be in existence for 30 years, but that we at the local and state level have to deal with.”
State Rep. Al Ott, R-Forest Junction, says: “Wisconsin agriculture is extremely dependent on immigrant labor. I really do think that it’s time for the federal government to get serious about immigration reform.”
The Wisconsin legislators are right. The immigration reform legislation that the House is considering is not perfect. But it has the potential to a great deal of good for Wisconsin families, for Wisconsin farms and for Wisconsin’s broader economy. And Ott really is right: It is time for the Congress to get serious about immigration reform.
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