The United States must dramatically overhaul its ineffective immigration policy and the best opportunity to do so is right now. If that sounds simplistic or repetitive, so be it. Sometimes, both are necessary to move good policy forward.

For more than two decades, Americans have been ranting, protesting and, yes, yelling about this issue. In fact, that divergent passion has contributed to a lack of progress. People of good will on both sides become so fractured, intransigent and emotionally invested that any movement toward what might otherwise be considered reasonable is seen as disloyal to the cause.

Supporters for immigration reform from the group Campaign for Citizenship say a prayer prior to the start of the reform bill’s markup before the
Supporters for immigration reform from the group Campaign for Citizenship say a prayer prior to the start of the reform bill's markup before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill May 9, 2013 in Washington, DC. The 18 members of the committee have proposed in excess of 300 amendments to the 844 page piece of legislation that would, if passed, create a path to U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

But results of last year's national election once again opened the possibility for debate. To that end, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators tackled the issue and put forth draft legislation now being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As one might expect, the hearings revealed that there remain strong differences of opinion, but at least the discussion has begun.

Those of us who have long favored immigration reform are well aware of previous false starts.

For example, during his tenure, President George W. Bush made what was thought at the time to be a promising run at immigration reform and Sens. John McCain and the late Edward Kennedy formed a political odd-couple coalition that gave reformers hope of movement. In each case, the issue was simply too hot to handle.


Advertisement

Which is how we have gotten to the 844-page piece of legislation being considered by the Judiciary Committee. It is a compromise effort brought forward by the so-called "Gang of Eight", led by Sens. Charles Schumer, Marco Rubio and McCain.

By no means is this bill an end product. Instead, it is the beginning of what we hope will be a meaningful, honest and fair discussion. We are not sure exactly where it will lead. The only thing we can guarantee is that it will not be a perfect bill. In that regard, we echo President Barack Obama's caution last week not to let pursuit of a perfect bill be the enemy of a good bill.

As we read the political landscape, any successful bill must begin with significant guarantees of tighter -- much tighter -- border security and it must contain some path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants here illegally. A bill lacking either of those two elements is dead on arrival, pure and simple.

Conservatives do not want a repeat of the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which was a bait-and-switch that promised tighter security in exchange for amnesty, but never delivered.

Meanwhile, liberals are not about to sign off on any bill that attempts the impossible task of deporting all immigrants who are here illegally.

We agree with both of those propositions.

In our view, a final bill also must crack down on unscrupulous employers as well as create a secure and accessible verification system.

There are other points that we will save for another time. Right now, we urge Congress to continue the quest for a reasonable and fair bill.