By The Denver Post Editorial Board

After months of working behind the scenes, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators that includes Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet in April finally unveiled a deal to overhaul the country's immigration laws.

The compromise put forward by the "Gang of Eight" runs for nearly 1,000 pages, but the measure is essentially built on a foundation of four points: strengthening border security; creating a path to citizenship for the estimated 11.5 million people in the country illegally; establishing a guest-worker program and reforming the legal immigration system; and expanding the the E-Verify program.

While each of those measures will no doubt prompt considerable debate, none is likely to be as contentious as the fight setting up over the path to citizenship or "amnesty," as opponents call it.

We hope those who oppose this common-sense approach to dealing with the immigrants who live and work among us look to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for leadership on the issue. In a series of recent interviews, the Tea Party member called the bipartisan legislation "a net positive for the country, now and in the future."

As envisioned, the path to citizenship would take at least 13 years and require passing a background check and paying thousands of dollars in fines and any taxes. The legislation also contains provisions intended to preclude applicants from receiving any public benefits.

"This is not amnesty," Rubio said on a Sunday talk show. "Amnesty is the forgiveness of something. Amnesty is anything that says do it illegally, it will be cheaper and easier.


Advertisement

"

We don't think it's amnesty, either.

What's notable about this effort compared to previous attempts is that it gives the Department of Homeland Security $3 billion to address border security and demands action. Should DHS be unable to demonstrate 90 percent effectiveness for apprehensions and returns in high-traffic areas along the border, the bill creates a commission of border-state governors and attorneys general to reach goals for a secure border.

The approach to security and citizenship strikes us as a compromise that straddles the divide on a contentious issue.

Just as importantly, the measure aims to upgrade our antiquated immigration system, creating new visas that will be of great benefit to many industries in Colorado.

Bennet noted that through the reforms, businesses struggling to find workers from farmers to aerospace companies to hotels and ski resorts will have a visa system that makes sense and provides worker protections.

Certainly there is much more to debate and learn about the bill moving forward, but it is an excellent starting point for action on immigration that is long overdue.