Arizona Daily Star

Immigration reform is, without question, a national necessity. The system we have is arcane, dysfunctional and does not serve the needs of families, business or national security and prosperity.

This isn't new. The immigration system is a maze of confusing steps, paperwork and bureaucracy that can take decades to unspool. For many people, such as farmworkers, there simply is no legal way for them to come to this country in the numbers American employers need.

So it is no wonder that millions of people have circumvented the official process and entered the country illegally.

This morass is a circumstance of our country's own making. It's the result of a combination of hard-right-wing politics trumping practical fixes to real problems that affect people's lives.

And that makes it all the more urgent that Democrats, instead of offering ridicule and outright rejection, seize on the crack opening within the Republican Party, at least in Congress. Get to the table and talk.

The "Achieve Act," offered recently by Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl and Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, both retiring Republicans, has significant flaws. But it's a starting point. That's a sad statement on the impotence of our political environment, perhaps, but it's better than the stalemate.

It took the general election for many Republicans to come to the realization that they must change their tune on immigration reform if they have any hope of attracting Latino voters.

President Obama received 71 percent of the Latino vote, compared with 27 percent who voted for the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, according to an analysis of exit polls by the Pew Hispanic Center, a Project of the Pew Research Center.

It's also misleading to think that only Latino voters care about immigration.

It's a much broader issue, and many Americans view it as a matter of human rights. Continuing a national policy that results in people being victimized by criminal gangs or dying torturous deaths in our deserts is unconscionable - no matter the nationality or legal status of the victims.

The moral argument, as fundamental as it is, has been made for years, and has failed to move those with the power to make change.

While we shake our heads at the political motivations behind some Republicans' Nov. 7 realization that their hardline positions - "seal" the border, deport immigrants who are here illegally, make people "self-deport" - are a no-go with millions of Americans, the conversation must begin somewhere.

And we, as a nation, must have a conversation. Many Americans aren't too many generations removed from their own family's immigrant roots. It's easy to take the tack that one's great-grandparents came here legally, played by the rules and the rest, but we must deal with the situation as it is before us, today.

To that end, we applaud the bipartisan political leaders, business people, community organizations and civic groups that have come together as The Real Arizona Coalition. The group has presented a sensible and workable framework - dubbed "SANE" - for national immigration reform.

The plan, which has supporters statewide, calls for operational control of the border, creating a way for people already here to register and gain legal work status, providing a way for businesses to accurately verify that status and streamlining the visa process.

The coalition's focus is appropriately on Congress, rather than state lawmakers. As the Supreme Court affirmed over the summer in its ruling on Arizona's SB 1070, immigration is a federal responsibility.

The time has come for serious and significant change. Let's go.