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Originally published November 8, 2013 at 4:28 PM | Page modified November 8, 2013 at 10:29 PM

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Editorial: Washington state needs immigration reform

Congress should not squander an opportunity to fix the nation's broken immigration system. Washington’s Republican delegates must demand their U.S. House leaders schedule a vote.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE U.S. House of Representatives has only days left this year to vote on a comprehensive immigration-reform package, building on a bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in June.

This overdue legislation is much needed in Washington state, where repercussions from a broken system cross industries, from orchards and fields to high-tech companies searching for skilled workers.

While U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, is a leader in the House Democrats’ effort as a bill sponsor, disappointingly none of Washington’s House Republicans are agitating for immigration reform.

Religious leaders, business owners and farmers are on board. A statewide survey released in September by KCTS 9 and Latino Votes shows 73 percent of 800 respondents support allowing law-abiding workers a process to come out of the shadows.

Yet Republican U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, Dave Reichert of Auburn, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas and Doc Hastings of Pasco remain strangely ambivalent on an issue that has major implications for each of their districts.

They should urge the House Republican leadership to schedule a vote.

The Senate’s deal in June included increased border security to gain bipartisan support, and a 13-year path to citizenship for some of the 11 million undocumented workers in this country. In return, those individuals have to work, pay taxes, and learn English and civics.

The House Democrats’ bill is similar. Three Republican congressional members — all from other states — made headlines when they signed on as co-sponsors, but it needs support from more of their colleagues to advance.

The window of opportunity is small.

By January, the Beltway is likely to be embroiled in yet another government shutdown brouhaha. Then come midterm election campaigns.

McMorris Rodgers — one of House Speaker John Boehner’s top lieutenants — favors a “step-by-step approach” to reform, but has not revealed what that actually means.

Reichert’s position is even more troublesome. Last summer, he joined more than 20 Republicans in calling for a comprehensive plan that includes a path to citizenship.

Now that a workable deal is in front of him and the clock is ticking, he’s silent.

Time to speak up.

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