1. Opinion

Editorial: Keep up momentum on immigration reform

With broad bipartisan support, the Senate approved sweeping legislation Thursday that would significantly benefit Florida and create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
Published Jun. 27, 2013

With broad bipartisan support, the Senate approved sweeping legislation Thursday that would significantly benefit Florida and finally create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. Sen. Marco Rubio deserves credit for helping negotiate reforms and build a coalition of reasonable Republicans and Democrats, but the work is far from finished. The road will be even tougher in the more conservative House, and supporters have to keep up the pressure for comprehensive reform.

The 68-32 vote sent a strong message about the merits of the Senate bill, even if it is far from perfect. The path to citizenship would take more than a decade and should be shorter. The strict requirements along the way, from learning English to paying fines and back taxes, may be too difficult for many illegal immigrants to clear. The $46 billion for strengthening the border to win over more conservative senators is too high, and the requirements for border security goals to be met before permanent resident green cards are obtained may be a prescription for failure.

Yet the legislation offers a far smarter way forward than the status quo, and it reflects what can be accomplished by building consensus in an era where Washington has been paralyzed by partisan gridlock. The Senate bill acknowledges the reality that 11 million illegal immigrants are not going to be returned to their home countries. It also recognizes that many of them already are quietly working in Florida fields and businesses, attending public schools and living peacefully in our communities.

Undocumented immigrants would not be the only beneficiaries of the Senate bill. So would large segments of Florida's economy. Labor and business groups agreed on a provision to create up to 200,000 guest visas annually for low-skilled immigrants like those who work in Florida's tourism industry. The number of visas for high-skilled foreign workers also would be increased. And a new agricultural guest worker program would benefit Florida agriculture, where informed estimates suggest the overwhelming number of field workers are illegal immigrants.

In his closing remarks before the Senate vote, Rubio acknowledged that the immigration issue ''has been a real trial for me" and that it angered many conservatives who helped elect him. But he recounted his family's move from Cuba to Florida in search of work and a better life, and he talked of the "miracle of America,'' of the impact immigrants have on the nation and the impact the nation has on immigrants. "I support this reform,'' the Florida Republican concluded, "not just because I believe in immigrants, but because I believe in America even more.''

Convincing the House Republicans to embrace that optimistic vision will be difficult. House Speaker John Boehner has no control over the most conservative Republicans and no appetite for building a coalition of Democrats and mainstream Republicans like the Senate did to pass immigration legislation. It will be up to President Barack Obama and Republicans like Rubio to build public pressure, change the speaker's mind and force a House vote on comprehensive immigration reform that could pass with bipartisan support.


  1. David Straz Jr. passed away this week. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The retired banker will be remembered for the range of his philanthropy.
  2. Lucia Hermo, with megaphone, leads chants during a rally against HB 314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama State House on Tuesday. [Photo by Mickey Welsh of the Montgomery Advertiser via AP]
    Here’s what readers had to say in Wednesday’s letters to the editor
  3.  Bill Day --
  4. Jomari DeLeon, is pictured at at Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida August 7, 2019. Jomari is three years into a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. She sold 48 tablets of prescription tablets over two days to an undercover officer. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    Even Oklahoma, a state not famous for progressive reform, has done more than Florida to fix sentencing inequities, Carl Hiaasen writes.
  5. In this photo from June 28, 2019, a Coalition for Life St. Louis member waves to a Planned Parenthood staff member. ROBERT COHEN  |  AP
    Florida law already requires that parents be notified prior to an abortion, writes senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida.
  6. Students say the Pledge of Allegiance as thousands gather at a candlelight vigil for several students killed in the Saugus High School shooting in Central Park, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. CAROLYN COLE  |  AP
    We doctors treat diseases, but what of the epidemic of gun violence, writes a St. Petersburg doctor.
  7. Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association members protest outside of the school board building in Tampa in December 2017. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s letters to the editor.
  8. Muhammad Abdur-Rahim points out the location of what is believed to be a former African-American cemetery next to the parking lot of Frank Crum Staffing located at 100 S. Missouri Ave. in Clearwater.  The empty lot is part of the former Clearwater Heights neighborhood which featured Bethany CME church and Williams Elementary School.   Photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.  JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
    Tampa Bay’s lost cemeteries are part of our collective history.
  9. A business man and woman holding a sign depicting their political party preference. SHARON DOMINICK  |
    Here’s what readers had to say in Monday’s letters to the editor.