EDITORIAL: Key GOP sympathy for DACA signals a chance for reform


There’s no denying that after decades of angst and political histrionics over illegal immigrants and elusive reform, change is in the air.

The country may actually be closer than ever to come to grips with the need to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Congress, at last, appears ready to resolve the issue of undocumented children who’ve lived here almost their entire lives.

Former President Barack Obama compelled the country onto a path of common sense and decency in 2012 when he imposed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by executive order. The measure gives children raised in the United States, brought here by their undocumented parents, a reprieve from the threat of deportation.

Obama had no choice but to impose the awkward rules because a GOP-controlled Congress — held hostage by far-right party extremists —  has, for years, refused to enact realistic immigration reform. While illegal-immigrant adults are still suffering in political purgatory, at least those children who qualify for the DACA program have been shown some mercy. It’s a no-brainer. These children have known nothing but life in the United States, and they bear no responsibility for finding themselves in the undocumented affliction they are unfairly punished for.

Because of Obama’s DACA order, millions of children now have the opportunity for education and jobs, helping themselves and their families, and helping all of America.

The logic behind the program is so compelling that even stalwart tea-party type Republicans — who once wailed and railed against it as an executive order —  have been falling behind DACA as likely legislative action.

Aurora GOP Congressman Mike Coffman has joined with other swing district lawmakers to offer a “Bridge Act,” providing a legislative version of Obama’s DACA order. Even the recalcitrant GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan has signaled he would support the move. Since 10 other House Republicans have publicly supported at least the DACA philosophy, it could be that this piece of the immigration puzzle is at finally solved. With so much growing bipartisan support, even if President Donald Trump decides to abandon the program, and even if Texas and eight other states make good on suing to end DACA, an overwhelming push to make it permanent is likely inevitable.

It’s not enough. Despite the shrill, xenophobic dramatics by Trump and his dwindling fan base, the reality of America’s illegal immigration problem is inescapable.

This is about jobs. People come here for jobs, legally and illegally. And while some conservatives and Republicans fume bravado about deportations and making life so hard that we chase unwanted immigrants out of the country, the reality is that numerous American businesses know that illegal immigrant labor is critical to their industry and the American economy.

With newfound wisdom and compassion, it’s time to build on the momentum created by resolving DACA and push through other components of a comprehensive answer to the immigration quagmire. The country doesn’t have to provide a path to citizenship to every illegal immigrant. But we must provide a path to legal status. By offering work permits and visas, we can properly tax working residents fairly. By creating substantial penalties for businesses caught employing undocumented workers, we can force the country into a workable immigration solution. But first, there has to be a solution to work toward.

Rather than indulge the unrealistic and inhumane path that Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions are inflicting on all of America, Congress should bypass the White House and impose a far more realistic and compassionate plan. It’s a path that polls have long made clear is the preference of a majority of Americans. And now would be a good time,