Thursday, December 14, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Good start on immigration reform

The immigration bill put forward by a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday is a solid start toward creating an eventual path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants who already are quietly part of the daily fabric of many American communities. The legislation recognizes the need to balance border security and the rule of law with the reality and value of assimilating a huge population that is not leaving and has long contributed to this nation's economy. Sen. Marco Rubio and other border state Republicans have been instrumental in fashioning a good starting point for debate. They must remain focused on the overarching purpose of the bill as partisans and advocates on all sides pick apart the legislation as it moves through Congress.

At 844 pages long, the bill's length and sweep reflects the complexity and political nature of addressing how to both secure the border and bring out of the shadows the foreign-born residents who are here illegally. The Senate bill takes a compromise approach, offering immigrants a legal path to remain here and ultimately apply for permanent residency and citizenship, in exchange for tighter border controls and visa requirements that are tailored to promote the domestic economy and protect American workers.

The bill calls for the federal government to harden the U.S.-Mexico border with additional law enforcement personnel, unmanned aerial drones, fences and other tools, with the goal of vastly expanding surveillance and ground security in areas where large numbers of illegal immigrants cross the border. The government would have six months to develop the tougher security plan; after that, illegal immigrants could apply almost immediately for temporary legal protection. Those who entered the country prior to Jan. 1, 2012, pay fees and back taxes and pass a criminal background check could seek status as "Registered Provisional Immigrants," a step that could lead to legal residency in 10 years and citizenship in 13.

The legislation, though, attaches several security-related triggers to that timetable. The government would not process applications for temporary legal status until the Department of Homeland Security submits the border improvement plan to Congress. New legal protections would not kick in until the plan for 24/7 surveillance and added security in high-traffic areas on the border was "substantially operational." And the federal government would have to put in place new passenger tracking controls at the nation's airports and sea ports and implement a mandatory system for employers to verify the immigration status of job-seekers.

This combination of carrot and stick will be required of any legislation to have a chance in Congress. The long lead time for obtaining permanent residency, though, is excessive. And Congress has a responsibility to provide the money for tougher border control, the processing of residency applications and other measures if meeting the security benchmarks in the bill are the basis for starting the clock on the legalization process.

But the bill offers a reasonable framework for kicking off the debate on immigration reform. It is comprehensive in scope, and forward-looking in addressing both the porous border and the public costs of sanctioning an underground economy. And the shift toward a "merit-based" visa system could have twin benefits by attracting foreign talent and changing American attitudes on the contributions immigrants can make.

The compromise bill moves the discussion away from the choice between amnesty and the unrealistic notion of deporting 11 million people. It acknowledges that a long-term solution requires give and take on both sides. And it sends the signal that it's time for the nation to act. Rubio has led on this issue as one of the Senate's bipartisan Gang of Eight. He needs to bring along more conservatives and hold strong against the extreme tea party followers who refuse to accept reality and work toward consensus.

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Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17