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Immigration Debate Begins WIth Major Stumbling Blocks In Sight

May 22, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate’s compromised <a href =“http://www.opencongress.org/bill/110-s1348/show”>immigration legislation was barely birthed from months of strained behind-the-scenes negotiations. Now that it is officially on the Senate floor, it faces another grim battle to actually be enacted and replace our current immigration policies.

Dozens of amendments are likely to be proposed to the bill, some of them poison-pills which, if approved, would alter the bill in a way to ensure that, in the end, it would not get the 60 votes it needs to pass. The first of these amendments may be voted on later today.

The amendment, offered by Byron Dorgan (D, ND) and Barbara Boxer (D, CA), “would eliminate a proposed guestworker program, one of the central components of a broad immigration bill.”

Including the the guestworker program was a key concession of the Democrats. It was essential in getting the bill out of the negotiating stage and onto the Senate floor. If it was cut from the bill — which, despite negotiators declaring it “a grand bargain,” is actually a very fragile and hesitant agreement — would be thrown off balance beyond a point that any other amendments would likely be able to correct.

Here is a list of who we know will be offering other amendments and how they would alter the bill as it currently stands:

Jeff Bingaman (D, NM) – would "cut the bill’s guestworker program in half, limiting it to 200,000 temporary visas annually, with no chance of an increase.

James Inhofe (R, OK) – “would seek to make English the official language of the United States.”

John Cornyn (R, TX) – “would impose a hefty surcharge on illegal immigrants granted legal status to help states pay for the medical and educational services such immigrants would claim. Another from Cornyn would allow federal law enforcement agents to use information from visa applications to investigate allegations of fraud in the legalization process.”

Kay Bailey Hutchison (R, TX) -would “require illegal immigrants to return to their home country to apply for legal status.”

Ben Nelson (D, NE) – “would ensure that a crackdown on the border succeeds before additional job programs are extended to undocumented workers and future immigrants.”

Robert Menendez (D, NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D, VT) – “would award points to those immigrants seeking U.S. residency who already have families in the U.S. The current application process for permanent residency gives great weight to those with family members in the U.S., while the Senate bill would shift the emphasis to job skills and English language proficiency.”

Hillary Clinton (D, NY) – would “exempt spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents from the yearly cap.”

David Vitter (R, LA) – would “strike the ‘Z visa’ program that gives probationary legal status to the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.”

Lindsey Graham (R, SC) – would provide “mandatory prison sentences for foreigners caught crossing the
border illegally.”

This list was compiled from various sources: Congress Daily (sorry, subscription required), The Hill, The Washington Post, The AP, and Bloomberg News.

Be sure to keep checking N.Z. Bear’s page with the complete, easy-to-browse text of the bill. There is some great discussion going on in the comments sections.

UPDATE: The Dorgan-Boxer amendment to strip the guestworker program from the bill was just defeated by a vote of 31 -64. Roll call details are here. The Bingaman amendment to cut the guestworker program in half will be voted on tomorrow.

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