Seattle Times Editorial: Benjamin Nuñez-Marquez’ deportation highlights need for immigration reform

BENJAMIN Nuñez-Marquez’s deportation, scheduled for April 29, underscores the urgent need for Congress to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

An operator at a sawmill on Orcas Island immigrated to the U.S. illegally, but he has proved himself an irreplaceable worker and trusted neighbor. Hundreds of local residents and at least four Democratic members of Washington’s congressional delegation have organized efforts to help him stay.

As The Seattle Times’ Lornet Turnbull reported last week, Nuñez was driving a sick neighbor to the hospital in 2008 when the U.S. Border Patrol performed a random check and detained him.

His situation should remind Congress of the urgent need for sensible action on immigration reform. Increase work-visa limits and provide a path to citizenship for some of the nearly 11 million people living in the country illegally. The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive reform package last year with bipartisan support. Leaders in the Republican-led U.S. House have refused to consider it.

Like Nuñez, many people who have entered or stayed in the U.S. without legal permission are leading productive lives. Without immigrants — skilled and unskilled — Washington’s economy would take a hit.

Orchards need laborers willing to stand long hours in the sun to harvest crops. To compete domestically and internationally, tech companies demand the best programmers in the world.

For the Helsell family of Orcas Island, Nuñez is the sole reason its business, West Sound Lumber, remains open. His unique craftsmanship is on display in homes and community spaces throughout the island. Local business groups warn that his departure would “adversely affect the economy.”

Congress must rectify this situation. America’s immigration system is broken. A majority of citizens support broad, comprehensive reforms that would fix labor shortages and bring millions out of hiding.

Washington’s congressional delegates should push to make citizenship possible for all individuals like Benjamin Nuñez-Marquez who do no harm and contribute positively to their communities.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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