THE SENATE did not complete consideration of the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration bill last week, but progress was made and a timetable agreed on for a final vote no later than May 10. This gives legislators one more week for negotiations and perhaps compromise while ensuring that the bill will be considered expeditiously and not talked or amended to death on the floor.
Plenty of different groups have opposed immigration reform. Some but not all Hispanic organizations fear discrimination. Some employers want to continue to have illegal workers available at low wages; others, like fruit growers, need temporary workers on a seasonal basis and have always assumed that they could not find American workers for short-term employment. But until recently the large majority of Americans, who simply don't think about immigration policy on a day-to-day basis, had not made themselves heard. Now, hard times and high unemployment at home have hit the country at the same time that war and economic conditions in Central American provide incentives for rising numbers of undocumented workers to enter this country. Estimates of the number of aliens illegally in the country range as high as 12 million, and there is now widespread agreement that something must be done to control the borders. The best solution is amnesty for most of those who have been here for some time and tough sanctions against employers who hire undocumented workers.
Immigration reform is not a partisan issue. Still, what with one thing and another, it is best considered by Congress as early as possible in a non-election year. House and Senate leaders have had the good sense to move the bill along with this purpose in mind. On the House side, work is proceeding, and a bill will be considered by the full Judiciary Committee this week. With steady progress, hard work and a little luck, a good reform bill could be on the president's desk this spring.