Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: The best chance to reform immigration

The immigration bill that the Senate Judiciary Committee has passed with bipartisan support and sent to the full Senate still faces many hurdles. But the legislation's broad goals of bringing nearly all of the 11 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows while strengthening the border and the U.S. economy remain intact. While imperfect, this is the nation's best chance in a generation to fix its broken immigration system. Republican senators such as Florida's Marco Rubio need to keep educating their colleagues and constituents about the bill's provisions and keep broadening support.

The bill is the nation's most ambitious effort yet to control its borders in a bid to win support from conservatives. It throws too much money and resources toward controlling a flow of illegal immigration that has trended downward for years, but that is the pragmatic trade-off for a path to citizenship. The legislation calls for spending $6.5 billion on new fencing and surveillance, thousands of extra customs agents and additional checkpoints along the border. The security plans would have to be in place before the clock started on legalizing the status of undocumented immigrants.

The Judiciary Committee worked in a bipartisan fashion to fight off amendments aimed at killing the bill or making it an empty promise. The 10-year timetable for lawful permanent residency and the three additional years for citizenship are still too long but better than no path to legal status at all. The fines, which could reach $2,000 and must be paid for immigrants to remain in the pipeline, should be reduced but are not ridiculous. And the decision by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee chairman, to hold off on his proposal to allow citizens to sponsor same-sex partners for permanent residency was prudent. Discrimination against gays serves no national interest and has no place in American policy. But the provision would turn away Republicans, particularly in the House. The issue needs to be addressed, but it should not be allowed to kill the broader bill.

Rubio has worked hard to sell the bill he helped draft to other conservatives, and the measure that came out of the Judiciary Committee gives him even more to sell. The bill includes tough triggers and new reporting requirements to ensure the nation is on track to harden the border. It calls for new techniques, including the use of biometrics technology, to track immigrants and includes money to speed up the prosecution of illegal border crossings. The bill also would help meet demand for foreign workers in both the high-tech and service industries, while protecting American jobs. It would force employers for the first time to verify that they are hiring lawful immigrants. And it would crack down on those who overstay their visas or who game the system by seeking to enter the United States as political prisoners or refugees.

House Republicans such as Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Richard Nugent of Brooksville and C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores should follow Rubio's lead and embrace the bill for what it would do — improve security, help meet the nation's labor needs, turn millions of new workers into taxpayers and bring order to the immigration system. These are the practical benefits that led even conservatives such as Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch to vote for the bill in committee. This bill is not amnesty for illegal immigrants, and it moves no one to the front of the line for citizenship.

As the full Senate takes up the immigration legislation next month, senators and the public should keep their eye on the big picture. This is the best opportunity to pass comprehensive reform in a generation, and a better opportunity may not come around for another generation.

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Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County transit referendum that has made the November ballot is significantly stronger than two efforts that failed to reach the end zone in the past decade. The one-cent sales surtax would generate enough money to meaningfully improv...
Published: 08/09/18
Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

The fight for medical marijuana in Florida should have ended with the resounding 2016 vote authorizing it in the state Constitution. Instead, the battle for access drags on, with Attorney General Pam Bondi waging the latest round in a lengthy legal b...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

They reach from South Florida to Tampa, from a high school to a college campus, from troubled kids to troubled parents. But there is a common thread connecting these tragedies: Florida has a mental health crisis. Addressing it would require spending ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

A proposal to use local money to ferry workers to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa always has been a questionable idea. The loss of nearly $5 million in federal money toward the project makes it all the more suspect. It’s time the ferry supporters off...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Blood on the streets of Chicago

Blood on the streets of Chicago

A hot summer weekend, when Chicago should be at its most livable, brings an undercurrent of dread and horror to this city. Summer is block party season, beach season, baseball season. But in some neighborhoods, summer is killing season — when armed g...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

A well-meaning but poorly designed effort to keep tobacco from children could sink a niche industry and end Tampa’s fabled history as a cigar-making capital. The Food and Drug Administration needs to recognize not all tobacco products are alike...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/13/18
Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

The St. Petersburg City Council has listened to the concerns of constituents and forged a compromise on where to install a signature public art piece in the new Pier District. Plans had called for an imposing aerial net sculpture to soar above Spa Be...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/07/18
Editorial: Sharpton wrong to call for sheriff’s badge in stand your ground case

Editorial: Sharpton wrong to call for sheriff’s badge in stand your ground case

The Rev. Al Sharpton misfired when he suggested Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was influenced by racial considerations when he decided not to arrest Michael Drejka for shooting and killing Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot ...
Published: 08/06/18