Kyl’s immigration hot seat

Hard-liners in the immigration debate stood behind Sen. Jon Kyl for his tough stance on immigration last year, while undocumented immigrants thrashed a pinata bearing his image.

Now the Arizona Republican's surprise support for a bipartisan Senate bill seeking to legalize some 12 million illegal immigrants and create a guest-worker program has bewildered friends and foes alike in the desert state.

The measure, which would tie tough border security and workplace enforcement measures to a guest-worker program and a plan to offer the millions of illegal immigrants a path to legal status, is under fire from the right and the left.

Conservatives argue that it will give amnesty to people who broke U.S. laws, while unions say the temporary worker program will create an underclass of cheaper laborers.

In Kyl's home state, some Republicans are furious at what they see as treachery from an ally who opposed a Senate immigration bill last year, but helped broker the present deal with liberal Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy and the White House.

"He has betrayed the people who voted for him. It is absolutely a sellout of America," Arizona state lawmaker Russell Pearce said in a telephone interview.

The sharp about-face by Kyl also wrong-footed immigrants' rights activists in the border state, a few of whom had once thrashed a pinata bearing a picture of the senator in frustration at his former pro-enforcement stance.

"I was dumbfounded by his change of heart … and I truly apologize for the incident with the pinata," said Elias Bermudez, the director of the Immigrants Without Borders activist group in Phoenix. "We are very proud of his stance."


Kyl said last week he intends to spend the Memorial Day recess talking with the editorial boards of Arizona's top newspapers and to constituents to hear their concerns and answer questions about the deal.

Meanwhile, analysts and activists in the state have been puzzling over his about-face and what it might mean for both Kyl and the Republicans in Arizona, where presidential contender Sen. John McCain also supports immigration reform.

"One possible explanation, and it's a commendable one, is that regardless of the political fallout (Kyl) is pushing a bill that he honestly believes in," said Bruce Merrill, a political analyst at Arizona State University.

"He's not up for re-election so he's somewhat insulated so he's taken a kind of McCainish position saying 'I'm doing the right thing for the state, regardless of politics,"' he added.

There are signs that the fierce initial opposition to Kyl's stance may be turning. The senator said last week that the number of calls to his office from angry constituents was tailing off, while messages of support had doubled.

Whereas many hard-liners in the state continue to feel stung by what they see as Kyl's betrayal, other local activists believe the pragmatism and leadership he has shown in the tough fight over immigration may bring him kudos in months ahead.

"He's a very sophisticated politician, and he knew what he was getting into," said Dick White, the vice president of the Valley Interfaith Project, which supports the bill.

The upside for Kyl "is being seen as someone who is central to resolving a broken system and breaking a logjam … after way too long."


  1. EdEKit

    I too am confused, and as usual upset with Senator Kyl. I live in Arizona, I am not a supporter of anyone who represents me in Congress, and Kyl caved in on immigration. He actually moved in a direction I want to see, he compromised. But he compromised because of pressure from Company owners, not because of any need to protect employees in any meaningful way.

    This is another example of legislation that will change almost nothing, except the public debate on the issue of managing immigration. Some years ago we saw the same pacifier politics with Welfare Reform. This new bill is a reiteration of previous immigration “reforms” going all the way back to the Chinese Exclusionary act.

    The enforcement provisions are strong on immigrants, and leave the bosses to do business as usual. There are penalties for employers in the new law, but there were penalties in the old law too. Without enforcement, there might as well be no law at all.

    It is an example of “re gifting” and it is just more politics as usual. Existing legislation, if enforced, would do as much or more to solve the problem of illegal employment, and would improve the conditions for working Americans at least as much as this new law will.

    We need to start enforcing protections for workers, whether they are documented or not, citizen or non citizen. Working people need to have their power restored.

  2. grooming

    The more you read about the Z visa benefits, the more you scratch your head at the injustice.

    Z visa is amnesty visa. Amnesty with scarlet letter A.

    Its a nobel prize awarded for those who broke the law:

    Under the Z visa :

    1. You can work anywhere, in any profession, without department of labor’s involvment of any kind.

    2. Its valid of 4 years at a time. Its renewable until death in case if you dont want to bother applying for GC and citizenship.

    3. It comes attached with some kind of AP for guaranteed re-entry into the country if you need to travel.

    4. Also, the annual quota will be 2.2 million for Z visa holders. (20% of 11 million). If it turns out that actual number is 20 million then the annual quota of greencards for Z visa holders will be 4 million per year (the law says annual quota = 20% of illegals so that they dont have to wait for more than 5 years).

    Think of Z visa like a Greencard that needs to be renewed every 4 years and comes with a flex-quota of 20% of total applicants. That is Z visa for you.

    Now you may be tempted to think that why not all of us apply for Z visa. The thing is, I looked into that too. Under title 6. You cant. You need to be illegal on Jan 1 2007 and/or before that. If you were legal, then you cant apply.

    To the extra-smart : If you are thinking of claiming to be illegal and shredding your passport etc. to prove that you are illegal in order to get a Z visa, dont bother doing it. They will fingerprint you when you apply for the Z visa. That fingerprint will match the finger print you gave at US consulate for stamping and at port of entry at the international airport where you get I-94 issued. They will find out that you were LEGAL and then punish you for being legal by rejecting your Z visa petition.

    Your chance to break the law and reap the reward is no longer available to you.

    Maybe legal immigrants need just one amendment in the whole bill and we will get everything done. One amendment to title 6 where the eligibility to apply for Z visa is broadened to include those who are present legally here work visas like H1, L1 etc. That will include all H1, L1 but exclude tourists and visitors. Therefore no need to worry about May 21st 2007 cutoff date, PERM, PD, Bulletins etc. Enjoy the Z visa till death and in the meantime, if you have time and interest, apply for greencard.

    No more backlogs, no more dealing with miniscule quota of 90K that is supposed to accomodate 1.1 million legal skilled hi-tech workers. Hey, I just realized, 1.1 million is total of legal skilled immigrants. Its equal to the margin of error of Z visa potential illegal applicants. Some say 11 million “undocumented”, some say 12 million. Margin of error = 1 million. Which is equal to all the legal immigrant and their dependents.

    So if they allow legals to apply for Z visa, they would be still within the MARGIN OF ERROR of total “undocumented” immigrants.

    Just one amendment can be a silver bullet to all of high skilled legal immigrants problems!!

    courtesy — logiclife from

  3. Carl Nemo

    Senator Jon Kyl-“R” there any questions…? :)) No doubt the fix is in and that’s why he’s turned around. We’ll never know the details but he’s evidently gotten his marching orders from the Bushistas’ corporate patrons.

    Nemo **==