View Full Version : Senate passes sweeping immigration reform bill

05-25-2006, 04:47 PM
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Congress' struggle to overhaul America's immigration law heads next into House-Senate negotiations that could last all summer. They will test President Bush's ability to forge a compromise on an emotional issue in an election year.

As expected, the Senate voted 62-36 Thursday to pass landmark legislation that would put nearly two-thirds of the nation's illegal immigrants on track to eventual U.S. citizenship and create a guest-worker program to give U.S. employers a steady supply of low-skilled foreign labor.

The Senate bill embraces the basic concepts of Bush's call for comprehensive immigration reform and also includes toughened enforcement provisions, increased penalties on employers who hire illegal workers and a combination of fences, technology and increased manpower to help plug the porous U.S.-Mexico border.

But the volatile debate over immigration next moves to a House-Senate negotiating committee, where lawmakers will be hard pressed to find middle ground between the multilayered Senate bill and a House measure that focuses more on expanded enforcement.

Leaders on both sides say the ultimate outcome is impossible to predict.

Backers of the bipartisan Senate plan are calling on Bush to use the full force of the White House to forge a compromise, but acknowledge that the president is weakened by declining polls and his growing lame-duck status.

"After tonight, whether this bipartisan balance still survives or not really rests in the hands of the man at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

House Republican leaders denounce the Senate's legalization provisions as "amnesty" and remain adamantly opposed to the Senate bill. Some declared it all but dead on arrival.

"The nation needs legislation that will secure our borders and provide meaningful immigration reform - this bill completely misses that mark," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who opposed it. He vowed to rewrite the Senate bill as a member of the House-Senate conference.

Hailed as the most sweeping immigration bill in two decades, the Senate measure emerged from weeks of rancorous deliberations that paralleled massive demonstrations by immigrants and their supporters across the country. The bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

As many as 12 million illegal immigrants, more than half from Mexico, have entered the United States to find work. Their presence has provoked an angry response from many U.S. citizens, who say illegal immigrants cause a multibillion-dollar drain on social services and unfairly wrest jobs from U.S. workers.

Perhaps the Senate bill's most controversial provision is a three-tiered approach to illegal immigrants. The nearly 7 million who've been in the United States five years or longer would be allowed to stay. They could become permanent legal residents in six years and U.S. citizens five years later by paying $3,250 in fees, learning English, paying back taxes and passing background checks.

Illegal immigrants who have lived here between two to five years - estimated at nearly 3 million - would be eligible for "deferred mandatory departure," allowing them to stay and work for another three years.

They would be required to leave after three years, but could return as participants in the guest-worker program. A so-called "touch-back" provision would enable them to satisfy the requirement by briefing exiting the country and returning through a U.S. port of entry. They would also be eligible to apply for "green cards" to become permanent legal residents.

The more than 1.5 million immigrants who've been here less than two years would be required to return to their native countries.

Martinez and Hagel crafted the three-tiered structure as a compromise to draw wavering Republicans, but even proponents acknowledge that it could be difficult to administer.

Another lightning-rod provision sets up the H2-C guest worker program. It would allow U.S. employers to hire foreign workers for low-skill jobs, largely in hotels, restaurants, construction and landscaping, if they're unable to find American workers for those positions. The workers would hold temporary visas for up to six years and would be eligible to apply for green cards.

Bush has urged Congress to enact a guest-worker program since he first began pushing his proposed immigration overhaul in January 2004, backed by a broad coalition of business groups seeking foreign workers to fill what they say is a chronic labor shortage. But the concept encountered stiff resistance in Congress.

The Senate bill originally called for up to 400,000 guest workers a year, but the ceiling was lowered to 200,000 through an amendment co-sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

The bill also creates a five-year pilot program that would offer eventual legal status for up to 1.5 million undocumented farm workers. Another provision, known as the DREAM Act, would put illegal immigrant children who have graduated from high school on track to legalization if they complete college or join the military.

Embraced by the Senate's Republican and Democratic leadership, and supported by a bipartisan coalition, the bill withstood most major challenges during nine days of debate. But it was refined to include two elements to boost conservative appeal: 370 miles of fencing along the Southwest border and a declaration of English as the national language.

Its enforcement provisions are similar to those in the House bill, including an additional 14,000 Border Patrol agents over five years, a crackdown on smugglers and document forgers, and an array of new border technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors and cameras. The House bill proposes a 700-mile border fence.

The bills include differing versions of an electronic verification system that employers would use to confirm the eligibility of job applicants. The House bill makes illegal presence a felony, but House leaders have signaled a willingness to reduce it to a misdemeanor. The Senate bill retains current law: a criminal misdemeanor for illegal entry and a civil violation for overstaying visas.

The House-Senate conference committee may begin work shortly after Congress returns from a week-long recess in early June. It will be under intense pressure from all sides.

Although pro-immigration groups support the basic thrust of the Senate bill, they'll press to increase the cap on the guest-worker program and eliminate the three-tiered treatment of illegal immigrants. Frank Sharry, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, described the bill as "a rough draft."

Conversely, advocates of a get-tough stance toward illegal immigrants are calling on House conferees to stand firm against any movement toward the Senate bill. "There's an entrenched wall of opposition in the House led by people who know better," said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He denounced the Senate measure as a "disaster" and "a pig of a bill."

Bush dispatched White House adviser Karl Rove to Capitol Hill this week to try to soften opposition among House members, apparently with negligible results. The president has elevated his profile on the issue in recent weeks, including giving an Oval Office address in which he announced plans to send the National Guard to the Southwest border to assist Border Patrol agents.

web page (http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/politics/14667978.htm)

05-25-2006, 07:01 PM
This does not answer the question who is going to do farm work,when everyone is "legal" The fence is a joke even the Border Patrol is against it. Learning english is just candy to make some Republicans swallow the pill of immigration reform. I wonder how much this will end up costing in the future.

05-25-2006, 07:46 PM
Can we classify the entire Senate as illegal aliens and deport them?????

05-25-2006, 08:13 PM
I don't think Mexico will take them /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Gayle in MD
05-26-2006, 05:37 AM
the true costs of this program, and all the repercussions to our country are available on the Heritage foundation's web site...I think it's www.Heritage.org...you (http://www.Heritage.org...you) can google for it...but check out the article by Robert Recter...he is the foremost expert of the true costs...you'll be furious when you read the whole statistical information.

Also, did you know that at the last moment, the Senate added an ammendment which states that the United States cannot build a fence without consultation with L. Fox, the Mexican President!!!!


Gayle in Md. Throw them ALL out!! Repubs and Dems!

05-26-2006, 10:54 AM
Consultation with Fox!!!! What idiots we have in the Senate.Fox is a lame duck,who will be out at the end of this year. I met Fox,when he was the Govenor of Guanajuato,and the truth is he is not the brightest bulb in the box. Can you imagine U.S. politicians going to Mexico,and stumping for Mexico to take better care of illegals? I call it interference in the internal affairs of a soverign nation. The man is a complete a$$,but I can understand he wants the twenty billion dollars Mexicans send from the U.S. to Mexico. Twenty billion that will do nothing for the U.S. economy.

05-26-2006, 11:04 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Gayle in MD:</font><hr>


Gayle in Md. Throw them ALL out!! Repubs and Dems!

<hr /></blockquote>

<font color="blue"> The truest words you have ever uttered. I'll never vote for an incumbent again who has any part in this stupid bait and switch law. </font color>


Gayle in MD
05-31-2006, 09:28 AM
Nor will I! Guess I'm headed back to the Independent Party! Wouldn't it be great if we all went out and registered Independent, and both the Dems and Repubs got zero votes!

Gayle in Md.

05-31-2006, 04:05 PM
Does anyone know where to find the actual voting record on this bill. I would love to know who voted for or against it.