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New effort lies ahead for reform of immigration

New effort lies ahead for reform of immigration

Efforts by the President Bush administration to reform America’s immigration system two years ago were derailed by opponents demanding that the nation’s borders first be secured before any changes could be made.

An effort to renew the reform effort could come next year under President Obama, once he has moved past the more pressing issues of national health care and how to handle the war in the Middle East.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano gave an early sign of movement in that direction when she recently spoke to the liberal think tank known as the Center for American Progress.

While she acknowledged there continues to be a serious immigration problem, she said goals for tighter border security established by Congress in 2007 when it rejected immigration reform have now been met.

“The security of the Southwest border has been transformed from where it was in 2007,” she told the group. “The federal government has dedicated unprecedented resources to the Mexican border in terms of manpower, technology and infrastructure — and it’s made a real difference.”

Arizona’s former governor also cited improvements in workplace enforcement, in management of the immigration system and in identification technology. She said more needs to be done, and it cannot happen without immigration reform.

But what kind of reform?

“Let me be clear: when I talk about ‘immigration reform,’ I’m referring to what I call the ‘three-legged stool’ that includes a commitment to serious and effective enforcement, improved legal flows for families and workers and a firm but fair way to deal with those who are already here.”

This is the approach President Bush sought but which Congress said would have to wait until our borders were secure. Has that time now arrived? Napolitano – who is responsible for border security – says yes and that there is a growing consensus for reform in the law enforcement community and elsewhere.

We hope she is right, as we agree that reform is needed, but illegal immigration is such a divisive issue that it is likely to run into the same kind of resistance that occurred in 2007.