Republicans need to pass immigration reform

America’s immigration system is broken. We have more than 11 million immigrants living here without legal permission who are in a kind of legal limbo. Businesses need immigrant workers to fill jobs Americans can’t or won’t do, yet don’t have the legal means to accommodate their needs. Border states, frustrated with a lack of federal action, are taking immigration law into their own hands. This can’t continue.

The immigration-reform bill passed with bipartisan support in the Senate addresses these problems, providing a path to citizenship for those without legal permission to live in the country, an upgraded system of employment-eligibility verification for businesses, more visas for workers in industries that need them, and improved security for border states. A prime example of the sort of compromise that was once the norm in Washington, D.C., the bill enjoys support from immigration advocates, business leaders, labor unions, law-enforcement groups and the American people.

The measure also enjoys enough support from Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass the House of Representatives. But in a discouraging reminder of how gridlock has become the new normal there, House Speaker John Boehner has vowed to block any vote on the bill until a majority of House Republicans support it—a near impossibility, given the presence of 49 Republican Tea Party Caucus members.

That’s unacceptable. Immigration reform is too important to be held hostage by Boehner and a rigid minority of GOP extremists. Republicans in Congress need to understand the options: Pass immigration reform, or face a severe voter backlash in the next election.