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The speaker of the U.S. House used an old punching bag to explain his failure to deliver overdue immigration reforms.

In a news conference last Thursday, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.”


President Obama has been more strict on immigration enforcement than his Republican predecessor.By 2011, his administration was deporting a record number of undocumented residents — roughly 400,000 people every year.

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Some immigration advocates criticize Obama for cracking down too hard on people who are in the U.S. illegally to work and survive but who are not committing crimes.

For months, Boehner has promised a step-by-step approach to reform

, and many Americans now say they support a package that includes a path to citizenship. According to a Feb. 6 opinion poll by CNN/ORC International, 54 percent of respondents said it is more important to legalize workers who are in the country illegally than to secure the border.

About 11 million people reside in the U.S. illegally. In Washington state, thousands fill workforce shortages in the farm, restaurant, housekeeping and construction industries. Innocent children dream of a life out of the shadows. High-tech companies such as Microsoft want more visas to recruit the world’s best talent.

Last June, U.S. senators passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with bipartisan support. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office maintains that measure would reduce the federal budget deficit.

House Republican leaders refuse to consider it.

To get things moving, President Obama recently signaled he would be OK with breaking up the Senate’s comprehensive package. He also said he’d renegotiate any path to citizenship.

Not only is Boehner playing the blame game, some members of his caucus seem determined to stall reforms until after this fall’s midterm elections, when Republicans have a shot at gaining control of both houses.

There’s time for an about-face.

Otherwise, voters should remember this moment, when House Republican leaders stared down an opportunity to fix the nation’s immigration crisis, blinked — and irresponsibly turned away.

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

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