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|3/17: Updates in the in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Immigrant Bill
Released 18 March 2006  By National Immigration Forum
Progress in the Senate Judiciary Committee
March 17, 2006
National Immigration Forum
OK. The sight of the immigration restrictionists on the Senate Judiciary Committee sputtering in anger over what they were hearing does not present the same uplifting visual as 100,000 people in the streets of Chicago. But they are two sides of the same coin.
Yesterday, some advocates calling the Judiciary Committee were told that the phones were 'ringing off the hook.' Today, Senator Specter opened the Committee's meeting telling his colleagues that the Committee was going to take more time to consider this complicated bill--despite Senate Majority leader Frist's demands--and that he was committed to having a vote on how the legislation will treat the undocumented population in the U.S.
There is some anger in the Committee at the pressure Senator Frist is putting on it to resolve all the difficult issues in the bill by his artificial deadline of March 27. There is no particular reason for the Senate to begin debating an immigration bill at that time. His attitude towards the Committee's work has been less then respectful, and many are asking if Frist's political ambitions are getting in the way. See the article from the Washington Times that is on our Web site at:
After talking about the need for more time, members of the Committee started talking about how to treat the undocumented population. It became evident that there had been discussion among members overnight Wednesday night. Senator Specter stated that his chief concern is that any immigration benefit received by the undocumented should not disadvantage those in the immigration backlogs who have been waiting outside of the United States for their immigrant visas. He and Senator Kennedy said that they had come to an agreement on how to fix that problem in the context of the Kennedy-McCain treatment of the undocumented.
See the Forum's statement about today's events at: http://www.immigrationforum.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=806
The Senate is in Recess Beginning Tomorrow
But a vote on the undocumented did not take place. It will take place on Monday, March 27. Committee members have been asked to return early to spend as much time as it will take to get through the important issues. (Although Senator Frist has threatened to bring a bill to the floor on that day, normally there is no business conducted on a Monday until, at best, late in the day, because Senators are in the process of returning to Washington on Monday.) It seems it is the intention of Senator Specter to have a bill that will include the undocumented and a temporary worker program that will be voted out of Committee.
Continued Momentum Will Take Work
We have momentum today, but 10 days is a long time. Restrictionist members and staffers will be plotting to sabotage a vote on the undocumented. Outside of Washington, restrictionist groups will be pulling out all the stops to get calls in to Senator Frist and other Senators to stop a comprehensive reform bill from being considered. Senator Frist himself may attempt to sabotage the Committee process. In fact, as this is being written, he has sent out a press release saying that he in going to introduce 'border security' legislation before the recess (which begins tomorrow). You can view his press release at:
So, to make today's developments stick, we will need more calls and letters. There are Senators to be thanked--Senators Specter, for his commitment to forging a compromise that will lead to a comprehensive bill, and Senator Brownback, for his contributions to a reasoned debate in the Committee (to name just two)--and there are Senators to be told to back off (Frist, for one). We will need more press conferences, visits to Senate offices, and people in the streets.
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