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Originally published Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 4:05 PM

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Editorial: President Obama did what Congress would not and acted on immigration

America has waited long enough. President Obama must push forward to reform the nation’s immigration system after Congress has failed to take action.

Seattle Times Editorial


PRESIDENT Obama is right to take action on the broken U.S. immigration system. The nation can no longer wait for a do-nothing Congress to do nothing yet again.

Thursday evening, the president outlined actions his administration is taking that should provide temporary relief for as many as 5 million people living, working and raising families in the U.S.

Among the details, Obama will protect from deportation immigrants who have lived in the U.S. without legal permission for five years and have U.S.-born children. He also would extend the prohibition on deportation of many people brought by their parents to the U.S. as children.

Additionally, he ordered the Department of Homeland Security to focus enforcement actions on serious criminals and people believed to be threats to national security.

Obama’s actions touched off needlessly melodramatic responses from congressional leadership. Speaker of the House John Boehner accused Obama of “damaging the presidency itself” and scuttling any chance at a bipartisan effort for immigration reform. He said he would not allow Obama’s plan to proceed.

That would be the wrong thing to do. Better idea: Speaker Boehner should finally bring up the comprehensive immigration-reform bill passed more than 500 days ago by the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support. Let’s see them do it.

“It’s in Speaker Boehner’s hands,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Friday. “It’s a lot easier to protest than to take action.”

Obama’s measure is a stopgap — an attempt to remedy one part of the hopelessly broken system in place now. Too many families are being pulled apart by deportations.

The nation needs comprehensive immigration reform. Immigrants are crucial to many components of Washington state’s economy and population growth. Rural agricultural communities depend on immigrant labor to harvest apples, asparagus and many other crops. In the Seattle area, companies such as Microsoft struggle to find enough qualified workers to take high-tech jobs and are hamstrung by limits on immigration visas.

In 2012, about 230,000 immigrants were believed to be living in Washington without legal authority to do so, the Pew Research Center estimated. That’s about 5 percent of the labor force. About one out of every 14 Washington children— close to 7 percent — has at least one parent who does not have legal status.

As a result, too many people live in the shadows, vulnerable to exploitation by employers who don’t pay and criminals who know they won’t call the police. Generations of children brought to the U.S. by their parents have grown up and graduated from U.S. schools only to have their lives, potential careers and contributions stymied because of their legal status.

Congress needs to do so much more.

The Senate reform bill is the best way to do that.

Obama had to act — in this limited way.

The need for immigration reform should weigh heavily on Boehner, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the rest of Congress. The nation needs the certainty. They should stop complaining and get to work.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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