Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: House needs a primer on immigration bill

If Florida's U.S. House Republicans are any guide, the debate will be bleak if the immigration bill proposed by the Senate's bipartisan Gang of 8 ever makes it to the House floor. This legislation would affect the fate of 11 million illegal residents already here and would be central to Florida's economy. Florida's congressional delegation should understand, more than most, that it deserves a fair and honest hearing.

Sen. Marco Rubio's challenge in selling the comprehensive bill to Republican congressional colleagues — including his Florida brethren — is becoming clear, as shown in reporting by the Tampa Bay Times' Alex Leary. Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor told the Times that the bill's path for illegal residents to obtain citizenship amounted to "breaking the law and we're rewarding it." Rep. Trey Radel of Fort Myers said Congress should be talking first about securing the border and then a pathway to citizenship. Rep. Dan Webster of Winter Garden said the timetable for citizenship means that those waiting lawfully to enter the country would be bypassed. "There are people," he said, "who are being leapfrogged if we do that." Rep. Rich Nugent of Spring Hill said he "can't think of any reason why we need to have (an) 844-page (bill) all at once." And Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores said: "No matter how you might color it, amnesty is amnesty."

What bill are they reading? The legislation is not rewarding lawbreakers but recognizing that the law is broken already, that it has not served the nation's security or economic interests and that it must be fixed. The bipartisan Senate plan expressly puts border security first, requiring that new fencing, surveillance and other controls be in place before any new citizenship process takes effect. The bill includes a clear "back of the line" provision that prevents new applicants from jumping ahead of those already in line to become residents. The bill's length is the byproduct of balancing security and the rule of law with the ability of industry and individual states such as Florida to meet their employment needs. And having illegal immigrants wait 13 years, pay fines and back taxes, learn English and pass a background check cannot fairly be described as amnesty.

The Senate group intentionally made the legislation security-heavy to give the Republican-controlled House and border-state lawmakers political cover and to increase the chances for a comprehensive bill, especially in the House. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which took the bill up Thursday, may take weeks to debate some 300 amendments. Florida's House Republicans should use the time to digest the facts and appreciate, as Rubio has, the potential benefit to Florida when immigration reform passes.

On Wednesday, the Social Security Administration reported the immigration bill would help stabilize its trust fund, boost the economy and create 3 million jobs. A poll made public Thursday by a Miami-based voter advocacy group found broad support for creating a path to citizenship in Florida — including in Bilirakis' district that includes all of Pasco County and parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough. And a report released this month by the Immigration Policy Center shows the growing role foreign-born residents are playing in the state's economy and political life.

These are the facts and trends in modern Florida. GOP representatives do a disservice to their constituencies by ignoring the facts and misrepresenting the options. Instead, they should be searching for solutions.

 
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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
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