With the nation's longest-ever government shutdown now relegated to history, Congress must focus on actually fixing our broken immigration system.
That does not mean building an ineffectual wall on the United States' southern border, a costly and mostly symbolic measure that lacks broad political support. Six Senate Republicans proved as much last Thursday, when they voted for a Democratic plan to reopen the government that omitted money for the president's wall.
In the process, those senators made it clear that a physical barrier should not be the political centerpiece of U.S. immigration policy going forward.
Instead, this should be an opportunity for Congress to dust off the bipartisan immigration proposals of the past and improve on them. Ultimately, comprehensive immigration reform must include a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living in the country without legal permission.
In particular, people brought to the country illegally as children – commonly known as Dreamers – need more than an extra few months of assurance that they won't be deported. The president should also abandon attempts to clamp down further on asylum-seekers, something he floated in the waning days of the partial government shutdown.
Such an approach would not mean abandoning a commitment to border security. House Democrats, for instance, have proposed investing in a "smart wall" that would include drones, sensors and more fencing, but not a solid wall from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific. After reaching a deal with congressional leaders to temporarily reopen the government last Friday, President Donald Trump indicated he is amenable to something other than a concrete wall.
These types of alternative investments, when coupled with additional customs agents and Border Patrol staffing, can be more effective at deterring illegal border crossings than a physical barrier alone.
Congress also must put money toward adding judges and other personnel to ease the untenable backlog of cases in U.S. immigration courts.
These measures are sensible ones that Democrats and Republicans should be able to come together to pursue.
Above all, the president should not seek to invoke emergency powers to try to build his wall. Such a move would not only be legally questionable but could derail bipartisan progress toward more effective solutions at the border.
Congress has the opportunity to avoid ending up mired in the same debate over border-wall funding a few weeks from now.
They should seize it – and, above all, prevent a replay of the 35-day shutdown.
– Seattle Times