New Life For Immigration Reform (Editorial)

If he hadn’t been so rudely interrupted by Bridgegate — one of the few political scandals in which the deed appears to be worse than the cover-up — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was on the verge last week of moving the country’s attention back to an issue of much broader importance than a politically motivated traffic jam.

Although he had actually signed the bill last month, one of the GOP’s rising stars held a ceremony celebrating New Jersey’s version of the Dream Act, which allows the children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition.

Federal immigration reform seemed to be on the fast track after the 2012 general election, when the Republican Party concluded that its failure to appeal to Hispanic voters had contributed to its poor showing at the polls nationally.

Immigration reform — starting with the Dream Act, designed to help children brought into the country illegally to become legal residents — is one area in which there is broad popular approval, Americans in the main not being inclined to punish children for their parents’ sins. What’s more, it has the backing of traditional GOP supporters. Last week, for instance, the U.S Chamber of Commerce put the issue on its list of New Year’s resolutions.

“We’re determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted,” Chamber President Tom Donohue said in his annual “State of American Business” address.

Perhaps we are seeing new life in an issue that is as much economic as it is compassionate, and one in which there is bipartisan (although certainly not universal) agreement. Speaking relatively, immigration reform is the low-hanging fruit that our dysfunctional political system should reach out and grab. It is a bridge that can be crossed, provided there are no artificial roadblocks thrown up for political purposes.