What we think: Montell's bill deserves a look

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State Rep. Brad Montell wants to put in place tighter filters for employers who could be hiring undocumented workers. The concept should draw consideration.

State Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) last week took a new and hopeful stab at addressing a problem that we all recognize and rebuke: the hiring of illegal immigrants.

His proposal – to require those most likely to hire undocumented workers to go through a specific process of ensuring the legal residency of those individuals – is not entirely original, but it at least keeps open the discussion of an idea that could help solve a problem that costs our country, state and county millions of tax dollars annually.

There is no certain remedy to keeping illegal immigrants from the country. Political leaders everywhere debate their ideas – from building a fence across the southern U.S. to spending billions more on cops and ‘copters – and those who are running for president in 2012 are as divided on their approaches as we are.

One concept seems to have consensus, though: There should be a tighter net on employing illegal workers. That’s what Mr. Montell is trying to do, tighten that net.

We agree with state Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) that the solution to these problems are a federal problem – and certainly states such as Arizona have become overly aggressive in addressing them – but what keeps those of us in Kentucky from telling our businesses that they must have a much tighter funnel through which potential employees would be filtered?

Let’s face this fact: If employers weren’t so willing to extend opportunities, then some of the illegal residents might not think that there are so many reasons to come to the United States and use the pool of tax-supported services without contributing to their cost.

In an agricultural environment such as Shelby County, too, there is a great need for labor that not many Americans are willing to provide, and sometimes employers find it much easier to hire seasonal laborers from the immigrant pools rather than to go to the expense of having permanent employees.

We’re not accusing anyone of wrongdoing, but we are suggesting that this process is as much a part of the problem as those who travel into Latin American countries and smuggle out young men, women and children who want to unite with their families in the U.S. and pursue the opportunities that are here.

A bill similar to Mr. Montell’s, placing some restrictions, was passed by the state House last term and then died a political death in the state Senate, which we don’t really understand. Why wouldn’t there at least be a compromise bill?

After all, the problem will remain and grow and fester as long as we allow, and any potential salve deserves a full and formal vetting before being cast on the heap of ideas that aren’t politically palatable.

This is where the legislative delegation from Shelby County can step forward and lead the debate.

We encourage Mr. Montell to keep up the good fight, and for Mr. Hornback – a farmer with a unique understanding of these issues – to join with him in proposing a sensible and useful solution that could help place a bandage on this oozing, bothersome blemish on our society.