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Editorial: For Boehner's last act, vote on immigration reform

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We are hard-pressed to find more meaningful words to address our immigration crisis than those spoken by Pope Francis last week to Congress.

Talking about those who travel here from beyond our southern border in search of a better life and greater opportunities, he said: “Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.”

This reminds us that two years ago the U.S. Senate compromised on a feasible, responsible bipartisan bill to help millions of undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows, get right with the law and continue contributing socially and economically to our nation. We urge U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to take the step he has long avoided and bring comprehensive immigration reform to a vote in one of his last acts before stepping away Oct. 30.

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Republicans and Democrats, including Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, came together to author the Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Boehner refused to bring it to a vote because of a possible revolt by extreme House conservatives who have been holding the party hostage, though the bill likely would have passed.

Here’s his chance to do it. Illinois is home to some 550,000 undocumented immigrants. We’re talking about people who have built livelihoods here. Many of them have children who are American citizens. They have put down roots. Contrary to venomous stereotypes, the vast majority are law-abiding folks.

Seventy-two percent of Americans, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in May, think undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in this country if they meet certain requirements.

From Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich to former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican, leaders in our state have given sensible immigration reform overwhelming support. Illinois Republicans in the U.S. House, though, have remained meekly in the background.

“With Speaker Boehner stepping down and his job no longer on the line, there is no reason not to have a vote,” U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) said in a statement Friday, the day Boehner announced he would step down.

We couldn’t agree more.

Or, Boehner’s legacy can be that on this monumental issue he failed to lead.

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