Skip to comments.Senate grapples with illegal immigration
Posted on 03/27/2006 9:14:24 AM PST by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senators writing an immigration bill broke from the House's get-tough approach by refusing Monday to make criminals of humanitarian groups or individuals who help illegal immigrants with more than emergency assistance.
Catholic clergy, immigrants and other groups rallied over the weekend in Los Angeles and other cities and again Monday at the Capitol against a bill the House passed in December that would make such assistance a felony.
Meanwhile, President Bush used a naturalization ceremony swearing in 30 new citizens from 20 countries to warn critics of his proposal to let some illegal immigrants remain in the United State against stoking anti-immigrant feelings.
"The immigration debate should be conducted in a civil and dignified way," the president said as the Senate prepared to tackle the hot-button election issue of what to do with the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants this week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected a proposal Monday from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to require humanitarian groups providing food, medical aid and advice to illegal immigrants to register with the Department of Homeland Security.
The panel adopted an amendment by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that would protect humanitarian organizations from prosecution for providing more than simple emergency aid to such immigrants.
"Charitable organizations, like individuals, should be able to provide humanitarian assistance to immigrants without fearing prosecution," Durbin said.
The committee faces a midnight deadline for completing a bill with a version of the "guest worker" program that Bush wants for illegal immigrants. The House rejected that program and Majority Leader Bill Frist has said the Senate will start debating a bill Tuesday without it if the committee fails.
Overhauling the nation's immigration laws "is not going to be easy," Bush said at the naturalization ceremony at Constitution Hall two blocks from the White House.
"No one should play on people's fears or try to pit neighbors against each other," Bush said. "No one should pretend that immigrants are threats to America's identity because immigrants have shaped America's identity.
"No one should claim that immigrants are a burden on our economy because the work and enterprise of immigrants helps sustain our economy," the president said. "We should not give in to pessimism. If we work together I am confident we can meet our duty to fix our immigration system and deliver a bill that protects our people, upholds our laws and makes our people proud."
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, calls for tougher border security have dominated debate over the knotty problem of controlling immigration.
But a tough immigration-enforcement bill passed by the House last year has galvanized forces that want worker programs for illegal immigrants already in the country.
"We will not accept enforcement-only approaches," said Cecilia Munoz, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.
Immigration reform advocates rallied Monday at the Capitol, where more than 100 members of wore handcuffs to protest the House bill's criminalization of their aid programs for poor immigrants.
More than 500,000 people rallied in Los Angeles on Saturday, demanding that Congress abandon the House-passed measures that would make being an undocumented immigrant a felony and erect a 700-mile fence along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. Similar but smaller protests were held in Dallas, Phoenix, Milwaukee and Columbus, Ohio, among other cities.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, said Monday it would be unrealistic to round up and deport the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. Instead, he told CBS' "The Early Show," the United States should create a "path toward legalization" based on whether the immigrants are law abiding, pay takes, are learning English or demonstrate other "positive behavior."
Senators up for re-election this year are being forced by the debate to juggle the demand from voters for tighter borders to keep out terrorists and businesses who look to the tide of immigrants to help fill jobs.
Employers and immigration advocates prefer a bill drafted by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., that would allow illegal immigrants to become eligible for permanent residency after working for six years. Both McCain and Frist are likely candidates for the Republican presidential nomination next year.
Another approach offered by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., would let illegal immigrants get temporary work permits for up to five years. They would have to leave the United States but could then apply for legal re-entry.
What did your wife think about the protests?
I called Feinstein's office and had to wait for my turn. I hope everybody ahead of me was giving them the same earful I did.
I've come to my own Rubicon on this issue: I rate it above everything else now, save WOT . . . even pro-life. Therefore, I will NOT vote for Dewine if he wins the primary. Yes, it may elect a Dem. But we must clean house of these gutless Republicans, and possibly having a corrupt Dem in office will give us good targets in to elect CONSERVATIVES.
Did anything happen on immigration today? I watched the C-Spans today but I never heard the word mentioned.
I think the judiciary committee (?) passed out the Kennedy version of the illegals bill: pay a fine, be a citizen. Oh, you must learn eeeen-glisssssh. Uh huh. And what do you do when they don't? Deport them?
For all your high-horse rhetoric, you haven't staked out a position of your own. Afraid of being called "irrational" if you were to actually do something so pedestian as express an opinion?
For my part, amnesty for illegals is inexcusable. If you want to call that irrational, go ahead, but simply calling it that doesn't make it so.
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