At least one Republican U.S. senator is ready to try to tackle the politically controversial problem of immigration reform. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said this month that, with the poor showing his party made among Hispanic voters in the presidential election, other Republicans should be eager to join him.
It is not surprising that Graham would be among the first to step forward in favor of comprehensive changes to the nation’s immigration laws. He was among the most vocal champions of the reform plan proposed by President George W. Bush in 2006.
That bill included a provision to legalize an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, most from Latin America, and to create a temporary worker program sought by business groups. But it also featured tougher border security and workplace enforcement measures, including an extra $4.4 billion for more border enforcement.
In the end, though, the bill fell short in the Senate with 37 Republicans opposing it.
While unemployment is high now, as more and more baby-boomers retire, the nation is likely to suffer a shortage of workers in key jobs. We will need more immigrant workers, not fewer.
The nation also needs to find ways to encourage the best foreign students attending U.S. colleges and universities to stay in this country and use their skills here.
The hard anti-immigrant stance taken by many Republicans might have appealed to some in the party’s base, but it was not a winning formula at the polling booths. Graham thinks Republicans can remain true to their values but also embrace immigration reform – and attract Hispanic voters to the GOP in the process.
We hope more of those from his side of the aisle will join like-minded Democrats to find a lasting fix to the problem of illegal immigration. It would be both good for the nation and smart politics.