Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Rubio's moment on immigration reform

Momentum keeps building for significant immigration reform. Business and labor groups have agreed on the outlines of a new visa program for guest workers in low-skill jobs, and a bipartisan group of senators is days away from introducing legislation to fill in the details on a comprehensive overhaul. Soon Floridians will see whether Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will continue to help build a consensus for compromise on immigration or cave under pressure from the most conservative wing of his party.

The agreement on a new visa program between long-fighting special interests illustrates that the art of compromise is not dead and that the time is ripe for immigration reform. Businesses would get a rising number of additional visas for guest workers in low-skill jobs, although not the 400,000 they wanted. Unions received some protection in wages for those workers, although not to the level they have previously sought. But workers also would have the ability to change jobs and seek green cards, important provisions that would prevent them from being held hostage by their initial employers. The details will have to be analyzed, but the framework represents reasonable middle ground and could benefit Florida, with its high number of low-skilled hotel and construction workers.

More disconcerting are Rubio's mixed signals. Instead of celebrating the compromise between business and labor a week ago, Rubio tried to temper expectations and warned that the issue may be moving too quickly. Late last week, his office again sounded less than enthusiastic about reform in responding to a meaningless Republican "analysis" that claimed reform that creates a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. That is a scare tactic, because any real analysis will have to wait for the specific legislation.

At the moment, Rubio is walking a fine line in trying to be supportive of reform without alienating the most conservative Republicans who helped him get elected. But many of those conservatives are unlikely to support legislation that would create a path to citizenship. Eventually, Rubio will have to choose between being part of the solution or remaining a darling of the tea party crowd that has torn apart the Republican Party and was rejected by more pragmatic voters in last year's election.

The framework of the bipartisan Senate proposal remains promising. It would create a probation period for illegal immigrants who come forward, pay a fine and back taxes, and pass a background check. There would be an opportunity for citizenship for those who follow the rules. But there also are requirements that security be enhanced along the border and that illegal immigrants go to the back of the line for green cards. All of these requirements are aimed at satisfying conservatives, but they should not throw up so many roadblocks that citizenship is impossible to attain.

When the immigration legislation is introduced, the real work starts on fine-tuning the details. And it will become clearer whether Rubio will rise to the occasion and be a leader in developing a consensus.

Comments
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18