Stephen Kent

Take heart, not everything in Washington, D.C., moves at glacial speed.

Important legislation may be stuck in the swamp of partisan politics, but the political ploys and posturing that surrounds it volleys back and forth like a ball in world tennis championships.

Look at the latest in the ongoing plight of immigration reform, which everyone says is vital but no one wants to touch.

The U.S. Senate, in June, passed a bipartisan bill that would have tightened border security and offered a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. But the bill stalled in the House of Representatives. Republicans, who control the House, have generally remained opposed to working with President Barack Obama on the issue.

In late January, House Republicans released a set of principles they said they would consider for immigration reform. Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle, the chair of the U.S .bishops’ Committee on Migration said he was “strongly encouraged” that they might bring some action.

But at the same time, he noted that the plan did not include a path to citizenship, a consistent call by the bishops.

The bishop’s encouragement was short-lived. Subsequently, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, withdrew his support of moving immigration reform forward because of “widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and the sponsor of the immigration bill passed by the Senate later suggested that Congress pass the bill, but not implement it until 2017, after President Obama leaves office.

A day later, a spokesman for the speaker shot down the idea, saying it would eliminate the incentive to the president to enforce immigration laws for rest of his term. This appears not to be a problem given that the Obama administration deported 369,000 people in 2013 — an increase of nine times from the number of people deported 20 years ago.

Immigration reform has been the subject of seminars, studies and research for decades. There can be little left to learn in order to make a decision. Supporters have organized prayer vigils, letter-writing campaigns and protested by fasting while camped out near the U.S. Capitol in support of passage of a reform bill.

Comprehensive immigration reform must include, among other things, a path to citizenship, a worker visa program and reduced waiting time for family reunification.

Failure to act on this issue for decades might explain why 82 percent of people disapprove of Congress.

Pundits say little will happen before midterm elections in 2014. The day after those elections are over, the presidential election cycle for 2016 will begin, and there won’t be much interest in taking action on immigration reform. We have a constant, two-year cycle of excuses for inaction.

The House doesn’t trust the president. The Senate doesn’t trust the House. And the public doesn’t like either one very much.

There should be no more patience for these face-saving, game-playing politicians. The message to them is simple: Do your job.


Kent is the retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. Contact him at: