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Originally published April 10, 2013 at 4:43 PM | Page modified April 10, 2013 at 4:42 PM

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Editorial: Immigration reform has traction

Political and economic elements of immigration reform have come together to improve the prospects for substantial change.

Seattle Times Editorial

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ALL the elements are coming together in Washington, D.C., to give immigration reform its first serious legislative chance in decades.

The enlightened self-interest of politicians chastened by election demographics showing Hispanics tending to vote more for Democrats, and broad agreements between business and labor groups have sufficiently merged to make immigration reforms a possibility.

The final package is still a work in progress, though a bipartisan proposal is expected soon.

America has not seriously revisited the topic since a 1986 amnesty for 3 million people in the country without permission. That number now tops 11 million men, women and children.

Republican politicians were sobered by the Latino vote for candidate Obama and President Obama. GOP rhetoric used for years did not fit the times.

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found common ground for a new guest worker program for nonagricultural workers. A “W” visa for lesser skilled workers would cover no fewer than 20,000 people in hard economic times, and up to 200,000 in good times.

No more than 15,000 would be admitted annually for construction work under the bartered guidelines. Wages and the number of visas for farm workers are unresolved.

A new Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research would track all the data.

A bipartisan Senate committee on Capitol Hill came up with a package of benchmarks that could shape the reforms. Key among them, and still not defined, is a certified status of border security. How it might be measured is in the works.

A proposed pathway to citizenship would take 13 years; 10 years to get a green card, and three additional years before citizenship. Candidates would have to pay a fine, settle any back taxes, and pass a background check.

No one would be eligible until the border is secure, however that standard evolves.

Employment stability has long been an issue. Visa programs would allow workers to reapply for annual authorization, and stay current in immigration queues. Employers could be sure of access to labor and skills they cannot find in the domestic market. Unions could have a measure of confidence in the stability of overall wages and the labor force.

Politicians with an eye on the 2014 midterm elections have their own motivations.

After decades, the economic and political dynamic is right for constructive immigration reforms.

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