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Our View: Seek middle ground on immigration policy

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Rocky Mount Telegram

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A tepid sense of optimism began to grow last week over renewed prospects for immigration reform.

Meetings between a bipartisan group of about 30 senators last week in Washington highlighted the spirit of consensus that appears to be building among many members of that chamber that a compromise measure can be brokered.

But hardliners on both ends of the Senate’s political spectrum continue to bash any suggestions that consensus over common-sense proposals that enjoy broad support can be reached.

The Trump administration waded into the fray on Thursday, releasing the outlines of an immigration proposal that it cast as a centrist compromise that could win enough support to pass the U.S. Senate. The plan won praise from many members of Congress, but was quickly labeled as “amnesty” and dismissed by some conservatives and denigrated by most liberals for being too hard line.

The main thrust of the administration’s proposal includes a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 700,000 younger immigrants brought to this country as children by their parents who are protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The administration also proposes to offer that opportunity to hundreds of thousands of other young immigrants who may qualify for that program but did not apply. But it would not extend a pathway to citizenship to their parents.

Protecting the DACA population — commonly referred to as “Dreamers” — enjoys bipartisan support in Congress and even broader support among the American people, according to nearly every opinion poll taken on the matter. These young people have spent most if not all of their lives in this country, have no criminal records and are either employed, in school or serving in the military.

The administration also seeks $25 billion for border security measures and new restrictions on legal immigration, which include ending the visa lottery system and limiting family-based immigration to allow immigrants to only bring their spouses and underage children with them to this country but not their parents, adult children or siblings.

These proposals certainly form the basis for a starting point from which lawmakers can craft bipartisan legislation that can be supported by moderate members of both parties. The extreme right and left are unlikely ever to sign off on any compromise plan, but pragmatic Democratic and Republican lawmakers should and must be able to find a way to meet each other halfway to enact fair and common-sense immigration policy reform that this country has needed — and failed to get — for far too long.

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