It took a government shutdown to get the U.S. Senate to start a meaningful conversation on immigration reform. But who knows what it will take to actually reform the law.

That’s an important question, because the issue that brought the government to a halt last weekend, the fate of the so-called “Dreamers,” was the easiest aspect of immigration policy to solve.

Now the government is back in business, at least until Feb. 8, and negotiators have until then to reach a compromise on the fate of the approximately 800,000 people who were brought to the country as children and despite their lack of paperwork have no other home.

Their’s is a popular caus,e and there has been a deal to be made on it for months that would package legal status for the Dreamers with added border security funding that could be used to pay for part of President Donald Trump’s long-promised wall on the border with Mexico.

A comprehensive immigration reform bill, which clarifies the status of 10 million unauthorized immigrants, as well as legal immigration programs like refugee resettlement, the diversity lottery, family unification and guest workers, seems more out of reach than ever.

Sen. Susan Collins showed real leadership by bringing together a bipartisan group of Senate moderates, who could put pressure on their leaders to make a deal that would get the government back online.

But passing an immigration bill that will get through the House and be signed by the president will require even more Republicans to break with the extreme elements of their party.

Unfortunately, too many Republicans have found immigrant bashing can be the road to success.

Trump got to the White House on an anti-immigration agenda and has staffed the White House with immigration hardliners. Down the line, Republican officeholders have been elected by promising to retreat from America’s historic position as a safe haven for people who are escaping tyranny or who just want a better life.

Even in Maine, 2,000 miles from the Mexican border, Republican candidates for governor feel it necessary to drum up fear about “illegals” bringing crime into the country.

There won’t be a compromise on the status of the Dreamers, let alone a comprehensive immigration reform bill, until a more prominent Republicans distance themselves from these positions and tell their supporters that immigration issues can’t be solved with walls or religious tests.

They need to say that we are a nation of immigrants, built on a belief that an individual’s worth is not dictated by his skin color or country of origin.

Any kind of meaningful reform will have to start with a common recognition that you don’t have to be born in this country to be an American.

If we can’t agree on that, even the “easy” policy questions will be too difficult.

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