Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers made some welcome remarks last week about the prospects for immigration reform. But infighting among her fellow Republican leaders suggests legislation will not be on the floor soon.
While she was telling The Spokesman-Review editorial board some reform measures could be ready by August, House Speaker John Boehner was comically candid about the appetite his Republican colleagues have for taking the politically painful votes that will be necessary.
In remarks made in his Ohio district, Boehner adopted a whining tone to mock their attitude, saying “Oh, don’t make me do this. Oh, this is hard.”
Then, in his normal voice, he added, “We get elected to make tough choices.”
Ah, but tough talk is so much easier.
President Barack Obama called GOP Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor recently to encourage action on comprehensive legislation like that enacted by the Senate one year ago. The conversation did not go well. The House’s second-in-command rapped the president for publicly nattering about Republican foot-dragging, and added that he saw no way forward on immigration anytime soon.
But even Cantor has said reform would be an economic boon for the country, and he has explicitly supported citizenship for many children of those who entered the country illegally.
McMorris Rodgers says she supports a path toward citizenship that would not require immigrants to return home to start the clock on legal status. The undocumented, she says, must be allowed out of the shadows.
Yet Congress stalls, and each day of inaction costs the U.S. and Eastern Washington economies millions.
Fruit growers have been in a pinch because the weather has their trees blooming early. They do not have enough pruners. The shortage of workers is expected to become more acute if good growing conditions produce another record apple crop.
Many of the needed workers are here, but they are afraid to expose themselves to deportation, possibly leaving families behind.
Meanwhile, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories cannot get the engineers it needs despite hiring from a headquarters on the doorstep of Washington State University.
Qualified international students graduating from WSU and the University of Washington would remain in the United States if they could get visas. Instead, they go home, where they help their employers compete against American companies.
Although McMorris Rodgers conditioned her support for reform with stock calls for more border security – the number of Border Patrol agents and deportations has peaked under the Obama administration – she and Boehner need to get legislation passed and reconciled with the Senate version.
We wait, and our economy suffers for it.