Past the first obstacle

The possibility of legalization for millions of immigrants took a giant step forward yesterday when the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration overhaul. However, a much bigger obstacle remains: getting approval from the House of Representatives.

The Gang of Eight’s bill successfully survived many challenges, achieving enough bipartisan support by suffering changes along the way.

The result is a controversial bill, whichever way you look at it. The path to legalization consists of 13 very long years, with requirements like having a stable job and salary, paying taxes and meeting other qualifications that will surely decrease the final number of people who benefit from the reform.

To obtain broader support from Republicans, the bill expanded border security in a way that is exaggerated, expensive and even almost belligerent toward Mexico—the second-largest trade partner of the U.S.

The price is high, and it has already divided pro-immigrant advocates. Nevertheless, the Senate’s Democratic majority made a commitment to have immigration reform with a path to legalization this year, one way or another. In that regard, they fulfilled that promise.

Now all the weight of the overhaul has fallen on a House with a divided majority, leadership that is powerless to lead the GOP caucus and a rabidly anti-immigrant sector that wants to take over the issue, so that the reform is about security laws and work visas without legalization.

The future of the overhaul today is in the hands of the Republicans. We hope they do the right thing, debating and passing a comprehensive bill with a path to legalization and citizenship.

Let’s hope they do it, not because it is an act of justice for the millions of undocumented immigrants who contribute to this country or because it will garner support from Latinos—which are both certain—but because the United States, its economy and its future will be the big winners. Yesterday was a huge step in that direction.