Wednesday, May 30, 2007

McCain makes a stand

After a period of relative silence from Senator McCain on immigration, the presidential candidate and long time ILIR supporter, made his position clear during a speech in California today. Read the full story from the AP here.

In other media clippings, Lou Dobbs has finally been taken to task about his infamous comments about immigrants spreading disease and pestilence!!
Read the full story from the NY Times
Also read John Duddy comments on the Irish community and his support for the ILIR.

And, just in case you're in need of a little more encouragement to call your Senators and Congresspeople again this week, have a read of
this editorial and remind yourself that the nay-sayers are in the minority and that, as last weeks NY Times/CBS poll found, 75% of respondents supported a path to legalization.

Keep the pressure on and keep up the good work!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bush Steps Up

Today in Georgia, President Bush was very vocal on the topic of immigration reform. The President called on the skeptics to "give us a chance to fix the problems in a comprehensive way that enforces our border and treats people with decency and respect." Read the full article from the AP here.

Maybe, while we're making all our phone calls to the Senate and to Congress this week, we should give George W. a call too, and encourage him to make more statements like this in favor of comprehensive immigration reform so we can get this job done, once and for all!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Memorial Day!

What perfect weather for a barbeque!
And while you're waiting on the hot dogs and hamburgers, pick up the phone and call your Senators and Congress people. Wish them a happy Memorial Day and remind them of the generations of Irish who have proudly served in the US military.
Let that be the first message they get tomorrow morning! Legalize the Irish!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Is The Tide Turning?

Today, one of the more conservative Republican senators, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, said on national tv that "we do have a bill that should be worked." Coming only days after the public opinion poll by New York Times/CBS News, perhaps the nay-sayers are finally starting to see reason and understand that the current status quo is not what the public want from their law makers. Read the entire article on here.
Let's keep the pressure on over the holiday recess with phone calls to all our Senators. Thank those who already support a path to legalization and help those still on the fence make up their mind!!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Senate Finishes Round One on Immigration Debate

News from the National Immigration Forum

The Senate has concluded its debate on the immigration bill until it returns from the Memorial week recess on Monday June 4.

Regarding the votes that were the subject of the action alert sent earlier this week, the Coleman amendment on state and local enforcement was defeated 48 to 49. A vote on the Cornyn amendment was postponed until after the recess.

Here is a summary of the votes that have occurred so far.

Votes on May 22

Votes on May 23

A Bingaman (D-NM) amendment, to reduce the cap on Y temporary workers to 200,000, was agreed to by a vote of 74 to 24.

A Feinstein (D-CA) -Martinez (D-NJ) amendment, to provide for the protection of unaccompanied minors, was agreed to by voice vote.

A Gregg (R-NH) amendment, to provide even more resources for border enforcement, was agreed to by voice vote.

A Graham (R-SC) amendment, to provide for minimum sentences for those who re-enter the United States after removal, was agreed to by unanimous consent.

A Leahy (D-VT) amendment, having to do with rules applicable to immigrants employed as dairy workers, was agreed to by unanimous consent.

A Hutchison (R-TX) amendment, providing local officials and the Secretary of Homeland Security greater involvement in decisions regarding the location of border fencing, was agreed to by unanimous consent.

Votes on May 24

An Akaka (D-HI) amendment to exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas was agreed to by a vote of 87 to 9.

A Coleman (R-MN) amendment, to bar localities from having policies that bar officials from asking about immigration status in the course of law enforcement or dispensing other services, was defeated by a vote of 48 to 49.

A Dorgan (D-NC) amendment, to sunset the temporary worker program after five years, was rejected by a vote of 48 to 49.

A Sanders (D-VT) amendment, to establish the American Competitiveness Scholarship Program, passed by a vote of 59 to 35.

A Vitter (R-LA) amendment, to strike the legalization program, was defeated by a vote of 29 to 66.

New on the Forum Web site

Our comprehensive reform legislation page has been updated to reflect this week's activity.

There are links to resources, including a Q & A on the Senate bill, "Questions and Answers about the Senate Immigration Bill"

Friday, May 25, 2007

May 25 News Clips; NYT Poll Shows Massive Support

The big news today is that a new poll from The New York Times shows that a massive majority of Americans want to change the immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status and to create a new guest worker program. Read the full story here or select from the links below

May 25, 2007

Letting Fear Rule
Washington Post, DC

One Short Amendment
Washington Post, DC

Immigration Agreement a Move Forward, But How Far?
Washington Post, DC

Immigration Bill Provisions Gain Wide Support in Poll
New York Times, NY

Immigration bill defended
San Francisco Chronicle, CA

Senators hold off key challenges to immigration bill
Orange County Register, CA

Immigration fix must consider 'human face'
Orlando Sentinel, FL

Get it right on front end
Orlando Sentinel, FL

Immigration bill forges on
Denver Post, CO

Senate rejects amendments to immigration bill
Fort Wayne News Sentinel, IN

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Latest vote from the Senate!

Did everyone see the latest news from the Senate this evening? Theres a great article from the AP here , talking about how, even though the margins might be tight, the "unlikely coalition" of Senators guiding this bill through are determined to get the job done.

It's more important than ever that we call our hard working Senators over the next week, while they're on recess, to thank them for all they have done so far and let them know that the Irish support them!

May 24 News Clips

Editorial | Immigration Reform
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA

Southern border, bad policy exposed
Chicago Tribune, IL (editorial)

Immigration bill may offer hope, but at a cost
Boston Globe, MA

Congress putting the cart before the horse on immigration
Contra Costa Times, CA

Irish Undocumented Cautiously Optimistic
Irish Voice, NY

Senate Bill Survives Initial Test
Irish Voice, NY

Rally urges petition support
Orlando Sentinel, FL

takahashi We need more Andy Groves, Vinod Khoslas - not fewer
San Jose Mercury News, CA

What's in the Immigration Bill for Ag
Dakota Farmer, SD

Rally urges reform to benefit immigrants
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, NY

Supporters defend Kyl, immigration bill from Arizona critics

Bush Speaks About Immigration Reform

President Bush came out strongly in support of immigration reform today, saying:
I would much rather have people crossing the border with a legitimate card, coming to work on a temporary basis, than being stuffed in back of an 18-wheeler. And I would hope most Americans feel that, as well.
Read the full extract by clicking here

Note to blog watchers

This is a forum for supporters of comprehensive immigration reform. It is NOT a forum for the anti-reform movement. If we feel your comment is irrelevant to the discussion at hand, we won't post it.

Immigration in the news in Ireland

Debate begins on US immigration reform bill

  • Robert Shortt, Washington Correspondent for RTE News in Ireland, reports on how possible reforms would affect Irish people in the US

You can see it by clicking here

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Greetings from East Coast Cailin

So what does everyone think about whats been happening in the Senate over the last couple of days? I'll be posting the updates for the next couple of weeks and would love to hear what everyone else is thinking.

ILIR testifies at House Hearing in DC

ILIR Chairman Niall O'Dowd testified at the House House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, Committee on the Judiciary on Tuesday May 22.

He is shown here flanked by supporters of the ILIR who traveled down to DC for the day.

Please click here to read the testimony

The Future of Immigration; Washington Post

Immigration's Future
The Senate Compromise Asks the Right Questions

By Tamar Jacoby
Wednesday, May 23, 2007; A21

The immigration deal the Senate produced last week is far from perfect, and its critics, left and right, make many valid points. But much of the criticism misses the forest for the trees. Left out of the debate: the historic scope and significance of the deal -- its ambition to deliver an immigration system that grapples with globalization and the choices it poses for America.

As usual, those yelling "amnesty" are the loudest voices. But they are increasingly out of sync with the public on immigration. Poll after poll in the past year shows 60 to 85 percent of voters in favor of an overhaul that would allow illegal immigrants to earn their way to citizenship by meeting certain requirements -- generally far less stringent requirements than those in the Senate compromise, which includes a $5,000 fine, at least a 13-year wait and a trip back to the immigrant's country of origin.

More striking still, even many voters who consider earned citizenship "amnesty" so badly want the immigration problem solved that they no longer care about the label. According to the Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners, 33 percent of the public think earned citizenship is "the same as amnesty." But a full 62 percent of even these people support the program anyway, compared with 29 percent who oppose it. In other words, less than one-third of one-third of Americans -- just under 10 percent -- agree with the talk-radio hosts screaming "amnesty" to block an overhaul.

As for the right's new argument that requiring illegal immigrants to register and undergo security checks is amnesty, that's preposterous. Even registering -- as distinct from citizenship -- will cost $1,000. And surely it would be good for the country to know these workers' real names, vet their backgrounds and get them paying their full freight in taxes.

But the amnesty crowd isn't only wrong and out of sync, it's also focused on the wrong part of the deal. The 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country are here illegally because our current immigration system doesn't let in enough legal workers to meet the labor needs of our growing economy. Of course, we have to clean up the mistakes of the past and find an appropriate way to deal with those who came illegally in recent decades. But this is much less important than the larger question of how to structure the system going forward so that we don't make the same mistake again.

And this, to its credit, is what the bipartisan Senate group has tried to do by asking: How many workers do we need? Should they come on temporary or permanent visas? Can we find a way to take advantage of the modern world's increasingly integrated labor markets and still make choices about whom we want as citizens?

Last year's Senate bill hid these critical questions under a euphemism: a "temporary worker" program that would have allowed temporary workers to stay on permanently if they wanted to. And many of those questioning this year's deal have yet to grapple squarely with the hardest choices. True, as critics say, our immigration system has traditionally been based on family ties. And newcomers' extended families often function as a social safety net, helping them do better than they would as individuals struggling alone. But surely family ties are not the only criteria that should guide us in deciding what mix of immigrants best serves our country's interests.

The Senate didn't get all the answers right. I don't think the compromise strikes the right balance between skilled and unskilled, or between temporary and permanent. And it fails to own up to the full extent of our labor needs by providing enough green cards. Much as we need doctors and engineers, we also need farmhands and construction workers. And I worry that the Mexican dishwasher who starts out on a temporary visa, works hard and eventually rises to kitchen manager won't stand a chance in the competition for limited permanent slots.

Still, unlike many critics, the Senate reformers are asking the right questions. And even if their answers fall short, they have jump-started a long-overdue debate.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ILIR steps up campaign

The ILIR has stepped up its campaign on behalf of the undocumented Irish in the US. We've heard that several Republican offices are under intense pressure from "no-amnesty" crowd. Hard to see how the bill being debated on the Senate floor can be called amnesty, but there you are.

The ILIR is appealing to all volunteers to start making phone calls to their Senators to let them know we support comprehensive immigration reform. All useful numbers can be found here

Friday, May 18, 2007

Adversaries praise a relentless Kennedy

As clock ticked, senator pressed sides for a pact

By Susan Milligan, Boston Globe
WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday night, Senator Edward M. Kennedy stared at an exhausted negotiating team of 20 senators and two Cabinet secretaries and said, "Let's shoot for 10 o'clock tomorrow morning."

The negotiators were tantalizingly close to a historic deal to remake the nation's immigration system. But at several points, nervous senators were ready to give up. Republicans wanted to give temporary visas only to workers taking undersubscribed jobs. Democrats wanted to allow family members of immigrants to come in more quickly.

But Kennedy, the Senate's consummate dealmaker -- still indefatigable at 75 -- pushed hard at his fellow Democrats, wavering Republican moderates, and even members of the Bush administration, insisting that the deal-makers work all night Wednesday to beat the deadline imposed by the Senate leadership.

Yesterday, the two Cabinet secretaries -- both of whom have been subjects of Kennedy broadsides in the past -- lauded the Democrats' aging lion as the one indispensable player in the negotiating process.

"He's awesome," gushed Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff , as he left a news conference announcing the bipartisan agreement. "I'd say he was one of the critical leaders in putting together this deal."

Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez called it "a real privilege" to work with Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat and liberal stalwart who spends much of his time trying to thwart or undo Bush administration policies.

"It's obvious we're in different parties. We don't always agree," Gutierrez said. But, he added, Kennedy "is focused. He's very determined."

Kennedy's demand that negotiators have a deal by 10 a.m., Gutierrez said, was the "stimulus" that got the deal done.

A pact on immigration appeared dim at the beginning of the year. Several of the key Republican senators -- John McCain of Arizona, Mel Martinez of Florida, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina -- were starting to feel the pressure of election-year politics. Several were considering presidential runs. Graham was preparing to run for re election in a conservative state. And Martinez, a key supporter of overhauling immigration , was heading his party's Senate re election committee -- meaning he had to watch what he said for fear of alienating fellow Republicans.

But Kennedy -- aware that an immigration pact would need to be finished by summer or it would collapse in the heat of campaign ing -- moved quickly. He sat down with President Bush at the White House soon after the Democrats retook the Senate earlier this year, telling the president he thought the Democratic leadership could help salvage immigration legislation Bush had been trying to get for six years.

Kennedy said he used other opportunities, such as the annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon, to talk to the president about the issue. Some 10 weeks ago, Kennedy, Gutierrez, Chertoff, and about a dozen senators in both parties began a grueling series of negotiations, meeting for two hours several times a week in search of a deal.

"There were times he [Kennedy] blew up, and I had to calm him down. There were times I blew up, and he calmed me down," said Graham . But he said the Massachusetts lawmaker refused to let things drop.

"He was informed, determined, practical, and essential," Graham said. Asked whether there was a moment when Kennedy had saved the package when it appeared to be crumbling, Graham said, "112 moments."

Graham said he sensed some members of the Bush administration didn't completely trust Kennedy at the start of the talks. The Massachusetts senator had worked closely with Bush on the No Child Left Behind education bill, but Kennedy had been a frequent and sometimes brutal critic of the White House, particularly over the Iraq war.

Immigration could be a potent political issue for both parties next year, with traditionally Democratic labor unions opposed to expanded immigration and conservatives insisting it is wrong to reward illegal immigrants with the possibility of citizenship.

"They thought, 'Does Kennedy want a bill? Or is he setting us up for a fall?' " Graham said, referring to unnamed White House aides. But once they were convinced Kennedy genuinely wanted a bill -- something the Massachusetts senator demonstrated by the sheer time commitment he made -- "things started to move forward," Graham said.

Stuck in a room together in bipartisan talks unusual for Congress and the Bush administration, the negotiators began to talk as fellow Americans, telling stories about their own families and immigrant experiences. Kennedy talked about his family's Irish history.

Several times, senators on both sides seemed ready to give up.

"You'd say, 'My God, if this thing isn't in, we've got no plan,' " Kennedy said, recalling the fluid nature of the talks.

At 8 a.m. yesterday , Kennedy called Graham. "This is coming apart, that's coming apart," Graham recalled Kennedy telling him. Kennedy cajoled the team into a final negotiating session, and the group came to an agreement by midday -- two hours after the deadline set by the Bay State senator.

Kennedy celebrated by meeting with several families affected by the March raid on illegal immigrants in New Bedford .

"They're still reeling from that," Kennedy said.

"When I told them the bill would make them safe and secure, you should have seen the look in their eyes. They knew they didn't have to be scared."

ILIR rally in DC to urge reform

Thursday, May 17, 2007

ILIR Statement on Immigration Deal

The ILIR welcomes today's announcement that key Senators have reached a deal with the White House on immigration.

We believe a significant hurdle has been cleared, however, we know that the work has just begun and we will be studying the proposed bill in great detail.

We want to thank the members of both parties and President Bush for the tireless effort they have put in to this bipartisan effort.

We look forward to working with them in the future.

Click here to read more about this new announcement

New York Times: Deal Is Reached in Senate on Immigration

Deal Is Reached in Senate on Immigration

Published: May 17, 2007
WASHINGTON, May 17 — Senators from both parties will announce an agreement this afternoon on a system to offer legal status to illegal immigrants, Congressional officials said today.

Details of the accord are to be announced at a news conference by Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

The announcement will not mean that a bill to ease the plight of immigrants and their families is at hand, since differences between the Senate and House on the issue must still be worked out. But the accord in the Senate is one big step closer to enactment of an immigration bill.

The senators who have been negotiating the details are known to have been considering a system that would give greater weight to immigrants’ education and to job skills deemed helpful to the economy in deciding whom to admit.

Under the proposal, the government would evaluate the qualifications and claims of many people seeking permission to immigrate using a point system.

Family ties would remain an important factor, but would have less weight than they do under current law.

The point system is one element of a comprehensive bill that calls for the biggest changes in immigration law and policy in more than 20 years. The full Senate plans to take up the legislation next week.

Although Democrats now control the Senate, the bill incorporates many ideas advanced in some form by President Bush. A draft of the legislation says that Congress intends to “increase American competitiveness through a merit-based evaluation system for immigrants.”

Moreover, it says, Congress will “reduce chain migration” by limiting the number of visas issued exclusively on account of kinship.

Democrats insisted, and Republicans agreed, that some points be awarded to people who had close relatives in the United States or could perform low-skill jobs for which there was a high demand.

Senator Graham, who has been one of the more optimistic negotiators, said on Wednesday, “There’s a 90 percent chance that we will get a deal this week.” Mr. Graham added that the legislation “would free up thousands of green cards in the future for people who meet our economic needs, while still allowing members of the nuclear family to come to this country.”

Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell University, said: “The legislation taking shape in the Senate represents a major philosophical shift. It tells the world that we are emphasizing characteristics that will enhance our global competitiveness, like education and job skills. We would not rely as much on family background as we have in the past.”

Under the proposal, Mr. Yale-Loehr said, “foreign-born spouses and minor children of United States citizens could still get green cards, but foreign-born siblings and adult children of citizens would be hurt.”

Senator Kennedy said on Wednesday that lawmakers had narrowed their differences on some issues.

“This is not the architecture of an immigration bill that I would have initially liked to see,” Mr. Kennedy said. “But this is a legislative process. A lot of different interests are at work. For the sake of this legislation, we had to come back to a point system. It will recognize a number of elements: high skills, low skills and family relationships. There are always differences about what the proportions ought to be.”

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, had set a test vote for Wednesday. But after learning that negotiators had made progress, he deferred it to Monday, to allow more time for talks.

The bill would offer legal status to most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. But they would not automatically qualify for citizenship. The proposal would require them to “touch back” in their home countries and apply for green cards, like other immigrants seeking permanent residence in the United States.

Some conservatives still dislike the idea of a large legalization program. But Mr. Graham said the bill struck a realistic balance.

“We are not going to put 12 million people in jail,” Mr. Graham said. “Nor should we give them an advantage over those who played by the rules to become citizens.”

Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said he had doubts about this approach, but said Congress had to do something because his constituents were telling him that “they feel they are being overrun with uncontrolled immigration.”

The legislation also calls for major increases in the Border Patrol and tougher enforcement at the border and in the workplace.

Senator Ken Salazar, Democrat of Colorado, one of the negotiators, said he wanted the new point system to be equitable. “We do not want to create a system that is just for the wealthiest and most educated immigrants,” Mr. Salazar said.


Immigration Update

May 17,2007

Immigration Overhaul Is Closer to Senate Floor
Washington Post, DC

No to Bush-Kennedy
National Review Online, NY

New York Post, NY

Farmers descend on DC to push immigration reform
Salt Lake Tribune, UT

Group to host immigration debate
Bradenton Herald, FL

Check who representatives work for, FL

Plan favors immigrant skills, not families
St. Petersburg Times, FL

'Historic' Immigration Deal Would Alter Visa Allocation
New York Sun, NY

White House backs off alien safeguards
Washington Times, DC

Broken border promises
Washington Times, DC (Tom Tancredo)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Immigration Update from CIRNOW May 16

May 16, 2007

Immigration reform starts anew
Los Angeles Daily News, CA

McCain, Romney mix it up
Chicago Daily Herald, IL

The immigration debate features magical thinking
Denver Post, CO

Senate nearing immigration bill
Los Angeles Times, CA

Oakland City Council condemns federal immigration raids
San Francisco Chronicle, CA

Feinstein, growers push for farm jobs clause in immigration bill
San Jose Mercury News, CA

Senators Report Progress on a Complicated Bill on Immigration
New York Times, NY

Immigration deal a tough call for Kyl
Tucson Citizen, AZ

Monday, May 14, 2007

ILIR Joins CCIR for Wednesday May 16 Day of Action

The ILIR will be joining the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in a day of action at the Capitol on Wednesday May 16. Full report and pics on Wednesday evening.

Immigration News Around The Country

May 14, 2007

Hitting them where they live
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA

Responsible Immigration Reform
RealClearPolitics, IL (Jim DeMint)

Immigrants contribute to LI's economy
Newsday, NY

Dan Walters: Legalizing immigrants gains favor
Sacramento Bee, CA

Are protests always the answer?
Los Angeles Times, CA

No immigration bill? Senate debates anyway
St. Petersburg Times, FL

Friday, May 11, 2007

NEW YORK TIMES: "Talks continued on a possible deal that would tie residency for millions of illegal immigrants to tougher border security..."

May 11, 2007
Immigration Deal in Peril
Filed at 1:56 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Efforts to reach an immigration compromise faltered Thursday as Democrats and Republicans staked out divergent positions and prepared to blame each other for scuttling the best chance for a broad overhaul this year.

Talks continued on a possible deal that would tie residency for millions of illegal immigrants to tougher border security and a crackdown on employing undocumented workers. At the same time, however, Republicans and Democrats set the stage for a partisan battle next week that could squash any agreement.

Democrats plan to force a debate starting Tuesday on last year's Senate-passed immigration measure. Most Democrats supported that plan, which a majority of Republican senators opposed.

The move is designed to pressure Republicans to cut a deal or risk being blamed for undermining one.

President Bush is ''going to have to tell his Republicans, 'I want a bill,''' said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. ''If we lose this opportunity to do immigration reform, (Bush) can't go around the country saying, 'I believe in comprehensive immigration reform.'''

GOP senators are promising to block the move, saying the series of secretive talks attended by the White House and a few Democrats needed more time to yield a compromise.

''It would be a shame if that arbitrary deadline resulted in the process coming to a halt,'' said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the No. 3 GOP leader.

The developing impasse could prevent the Senate from even opening debate next week on reshaping immigration laws.

The issue is fraught with political risks and rewards for both parties and is a priority for Bush. Absent a bipartisan deal, Democrats would almost certainly be unable to get the 60 votes they would need to overcome GOP opposition and bring up the bill, which was to be considered over the next two weeks.

Bush will continue to speak in favor of comprehensive changes in immigration policy and urge Congress to enact legislation he can sign into law this year, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said in a statement.

''Top members of his staff and Cabinet meet almost daily with senators from both parties to work out the details of a comprehensive immigration reform package that will attract broad bipartisan support,'' Stanzel said.

For some lawmakers, their appetite for a bargain is waning.

The GOP position has ''moved far to the right'' since last year, said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who has attended the talks.

''We have serious concerns about the workability and fairness of certain elements of the White House plan,'' Menendez added. He said the GOP proposal was ''a huge step backward'' from the 2006 measure, which 23 Republicans supported.

Talks have bogged down in a tangle of details. That has led officials in both parties to play down the chances for a breakthrough.

Publicly, Republicans remained sunny about the prospects of a compromise, reluctant to be seen as obstacles to achieving an item that polls show has broad support.

''I think it's pretty clear that the vast majority of Republicans want an immigration bill,'' said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said Democrats are concerned the emerging bipartisan measure is going too far to placate GOP conservatives at the risk of alienating Democrats.

''Our frustration is, we look around the table of the negotiators, and they are trying to please Republican senators who were totally opposed to comprehensive immigration reform,'' said Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat. ''As a consequence, they are leaving behind a lot of mainstream Democrats and Republicans.''

Republicans, many of whom considered last year's measure unduly lenient toward illegal immigrants, said they were bent on supporting the new approach under discussion in the bipartisan talks.

Modeled after a White House draft circulated in late March, it would impose large fines, long waits and trips home on illegal immigrants seeking to gain legal status. It would shift the immigration system toward one based more heavily on skills and employment criteria, eliminating or curtailing opportunities for immigrants to bring their families to the U.S.

''Republicans need to stand firm for this framework,'' said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. ''The danger for Republicans would be that somehow they felt weak and defensive, and accepted so many compromises on this framework that it really is not true to the ideals it proposes.''

The negotiations have been extraordinarily sensitive for both sides. Democrats are wary of committing to anything stricter than last year's bill. Republicans are concerned about embracing anything that gives illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship -- decried by conservatives as ''amnesty.''


THE HILL: Reid: Bush must push his party forward on immigration reform

Reid: Bush must push his party forward on immigration reform
By Elana Schor
May 11, 2007

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday implored President Bush to intervene personally in his chamber’s bipartisan immigration talks, as time grew shorter for a deal that would avert a looming GOP filibuster.

Republicans struck an optimistic note after an afternoon huddle where their immigration negotiators briefed members on the outline that has earned the cautious approval of both parties’ emissaries. But many Republicans remain determined to derail any debate on last year’s immigration bill, which Reid has offered as a placeholder to buy time for further talks if a full agreement does not appear by next week.

The White House has sent two Cabinet secretaries and several senior aides to the table on immigration, but Reid told reporters that Bush’s personal involvement in the process could make the difference.

“We’re asking him, pleading with him to get involved,” Reid said, adding: “The president is going to have to tell his Republicans, ‘I want a bill.’ Right now these are broad concepts.”

If an immigration reform bill does not emerge after this go-round, Reid continued, Bush “can no longer go around the country saying, ‘I want comprehensive immigration reform.’”

Even as some Republicans edge closer to a procedural filibuster on last year’s immigration bill, which almost half of their conference supported at the time, others have lauded Reid for keeping the pressure on by sticking to his deadline of next week. Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said Reid, a former boxer, was enacting the “delicate dance” required of majority leaders, but Lott scoffed at the notion that Bush was not doing enough to encourage a deal.

“What do they want him to do, come over here and start writing out the bill into law? Get real,” Lott said.
Lott acknowledged that unless new legislation is available to call up before Reid moves to proceed to last year’s Senate-passed immigration bill, Republicans will probably object. The time for that final showdown remains unclear, but senators were eyeing a late vote on Tuesday.

Reid admitted that even he “wasn’t really wild about” last year’s immigration bill, which never reached a conference with the more conservative House under GOP control. This year’s framework is viewed as more hard-line than the previous version, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said he has at times questioned Democrats’ willingness to move rightward in search of a consensus.

“The White House doesn’t seem to have tiptoed away from last year’s bipartisan position,” Menendez told reporters. “It seems they’ve taken a huge leap backward.”

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel defended Bush’s involvement in the immigration talks, noting via e-mail that Bush has called for an immigration deal at congressional retreats and multiple leadership meetings in addition to public appearances.

“He will continue to speak out about the issue and urge Congress to enact legislation he can sign into law this year,” Stanzel said.

But Tony Snow, chief White House spokesman, backed the spirit of Reid’s effort to move on last year’s bill during his briefing yesterday: “[Reid is] trying to create a placeholder so that those involved can have the time to be able to drop that other bill, and we appreciate it.”

Meanwhile, Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) outlined their must-have reform provisions alongside Reagan administration Attorney General Edwin Meese. The two senators are staunch supporters of escalated border enforcement before any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. DeMint and Sessions declared last year’s immigration bill dead on arrival, as did Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

“This year, given the politics of the House with [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying she wants 70 Republicans [backing immigration reform] … what we do in the Senate, I think, will be the bill,” Graham told reporters.

And time is running out for that bill. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) acknowledged the daunting workload Democratic leaders aim to complete before taking Memorial Day recess: the budget conference report, a Senate supplemental and likely supplemental conference report, and the labyrinthine immigration measure.

Yet Durbin dismissed the option of moving on to another bill next week to give immigration negotiators more time. That said, the two weeks cordoned off for immigration would be abruptly freed up should Republicans follow through on a procedural filibuster.

“We’re likely to move to a different bill,” Durbin said. “It might be energy.”