Monday, March 27, 2006
By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer -- Monday, 1 hour, 39 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - The Senate tackles the hot-button election issue of what to do with the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants this week, with coming down on the side of letting many of them stay if they have jobs.
United Farm Workers members and their supporters, right, rally Sunday in downtown Los Angeles, to mark the birthday of the late Cesar Chavez, the union's founder, and to call for enactment of a federal law that would give temporary legal status to many illegal agricultural workers. (AP Photo/Ric Francis)
Bush planned to use a naturalization ceremony for swearing in 30 new citizens Monday to press his call for a "guest worker" program. The Senate Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, faced a midnight deadline for completing a bill that would do it.
"We must remember there are hardworking individuals, doing the jobs that Americans will not do, who are contributing the economic vitality of our country," the president said in his weekend radio address.
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 scheduled a rally Monday at the U.S. Capitol, where dozens of members of the clergy planned to wear handcuffs to protest what they said is 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.
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.
Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sunday his panel will get a bill to the full Senate before Tuesday, even if it has to work "very, very late into the night."
"If they're prepared to work to become American citizens in the long line traditionally of immigrants who have helped make this country, we can have both a nation of laws and a welcoming nation of workers who do some very, very important jobs for our economy," Specter said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
Senate aides met into the evening Sunday in advance of a Judiciary Committee meeting to debate legislation, but there was no evidence of a breakthrough on the issue most in dispute. Lawmakers have been divided on whether illegal immigrants should be required to return to their home country before they become eligible for U.S. citizenship.
Whether or not the committee produces a bill, Majority Leader Bill Frist plans to open two weeks of Senate debate on the issue Tuesday. Frist, R-Tenn., has offered a measure that would punish employers who hire illegal immigrants and provide more visas. It sidesteps the issue of whether to let illegal immigrants already here stay.
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 (news, bio, voting record), 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.
Cornyn said the McCain-Kennedy proposal "rewards illegal immigrants and will be considered an amnesty by Americans. It will encourage further disrespect for our laws, and will undercut our efforts to shore up homeland security."
Aides to Specter, Cornyn, Kyl, Kennedy and McCain spent much of the congressional recess last week trying to find a compromise that would stave off Frist's bill.
Source: AP-Yahoo News.Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
new email: LawMed@Haigler.Clearwire.net
or old: Dave@Haigler.Info
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perhaps we should send all the descendants of those people back where they came from too.
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