The Immigration Debate

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In the June 10 editorial "Getting to No," about the immigration bill, The Post claimed I "ducked the hard vote" and stated that I had offered a "phony compromise proposal that had no chance" for success. To the contrary, the amendment I offered is a vital adjustment that would save the bill. It is also fair to both sides of the debate and consistent with my long-held positions on immigration reform.

I have long argued that immigration reform rests on four basic premises: tighter border security, strict enforcement of penalties for companies that knowingly hire undocumented workers, very limited guest worker programs, and an earned path toward citizenship for immigrants who have put down roots in this country.

My amendment addresses the last premise. Under the bill we are debating, virtually all undocumented immigrants living in the United States -- an estimated 12 million to 20 million -- would be eligible for the path to U.S. citizenship.

My amendment would allow a smaller percentage to legalize their status based on objective criteria that measure their roots in the community. It also would eliminate the bill's unworkable "touch back" provision, which requires immigrants to return to their native countries in order to apply for permanent residence in the United States.

The bill's floor managers allowed only one amendment that even discussed the legalization program. That amendment, a proposal to eliminate the program, indeed had no chance. But my amendment is a common-sense compromise that could receive wide support if it were allowed a vote on the floor.

This is not about ducking a hard vote. This is about offering a responsible solution that might bring the country together.

JAMES WEBB

U.S. Senator (D-Va.)

Washington

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Has anybody done the math on the implications of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's plan, as reported in the June 7 Politics column, to expel all undocumented immigrants "gradually and humanely"?

If Mr. Romney is serious about this plan, it means rounding up and expelling an average of 8,220 people every day, or nearly a quarter of a million people every month. That's the figure you get if you divide the number of illegal immigrants (12 million) by the number of days in a hypothetical four-year Romney administration.

Mr. Romney is offering a campaign of mass detentions and expulsions on a scale without precedent in American history. It would probably lead to violence and severe economic dislocation in much of the country, strain police resources, and trample on everyone's civil liberties.

ROGER ATWOOD

Washington


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