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Immigration: Time to Choose Sides

April 8, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

There’s a battle happening behind the scenes between Democrats and Republicans in the House over who owns the upper hand on immigration legislation. Republicans this week are calling for a “full court press” to get the support of a handful of on-the-fence Democrats so that they can force a vote on an immigration enforcement bill, the SAVE Act. Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to push forward with creating their own compromise proposal, which would likely include a patch to citizenship program.

The SAVE Act is designed to curb illegal immigration by beefing up border security personnel and by making it more difficult for illegal immigrants to find work in the U.S. One of its most controversial provisions would make E-Verify, a voluntary government program that lets employers verify the employment eligibility status of their employees, to become mandatory over the next four years. For a thorough overview of the bill, see this press release (pdf).

Thelma Drake (D-VA) is trying to force the bill out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote through using a parliamentary tactic known as a discharge petition. In order for the petition to be successful, she needs to get the signatures of 218 representatives. Currently 185 have signed on.

The SAVE Act has 49 Democrats as co-sponsors, many of whom came to the bill to seek coverage from the political fallout of the Senate’s disastrous immigration debate last Spring. The discharge petition puts them between a rock and a hard place — if they sign it, they disenfranchise the majority of their Democratic constituents; if they don’t, Republicans will call them out on their inconsistency as a lack of commitment to immigration enforcement.

According to insider news source CongressDaily ($), “House Democrats are concerned that another 10 rank-and-file lawmakers, likely ”">Blue Dog Coalition members, will sign the petition. With that, Republicans could easily round up the few in their party who have not signed on and ensure that the measure comes to the floor."

Below is a list of all the Blue Dog Democrats who are co-sponsors of the SAVE Act, but haven’t (yet) signed the discharge petition. How the current Congress addresses immigration now lays largely in their hands — if your Rep. is on the list, you may want to call them and tell them where you stand:

Rep. Michael Arcuri [D, NY-24]
Rep. Melissa Bean [D, IL-8]
Rep. Robert Berry [D, AR-1]
Rep. Sanford Bishop [D, GA-2]
Rep. Dan Boren [D, OK-2]
Rep. Leonard Boswell [D, IA-3]

Rep. F. Allen Boyd [D, FL-2]
Rep. Jim Cooper [D, TN-5]
Rep. Robert Cramer [D, AL-5]
Rep. Lincoln Davis [D, TN-4]
Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand [D, NY-20]
Rep. Baron Hill [D, IN-9]
Rep. Tim Holden [D, PA-17]
Rep. James Marshall [D, GA-8]
Rep. Jim Matheson [D, UT-2]
Rep. Charles Melancon [D, LA-3]
Rep. Patrick Murphy [D, PA-8]
Rep. Mike Ross [D, AR-4]
Rep. John Tanner [D, TN-8]

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