Immigration bill faces crucial test

Conservative Republican senators and a handful of Democrats are trying to put a final knife in President Bush’s plan for legalizing millions of unlawful immigrants.

A broad immigration bill, embracing what critics call amnesty, survived a series of unfriendly amendments Wednesday. Supporters pointed to the bill’s tighter borders and workplace rules to keep it alive.

Both sides agreed the crucial vote occurs Thursday. Supporters must gain 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to limit debate and clear the way for a roll call on final passage, perhaps by Friday. Anything less will likely doom the legislation until a new president and Congress take office in 2009.

Bush’s allies passed a similar test Tuesday, but several senators said they simply were agreeing to let debate continue for a couple of days, and they made no promises to support the legislation on Thursday or beyond.

The revived immigration measure could grant legalization to the estimated 12 million unlawful immigrants if they pass background checks and pay fines and fees. It also would toughen border security and institute a new system for weeding out illegal immigrants from workplaces.

It faces challenges from the left as well as the right.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was among those disappointed Wednesday. The Senate voted 55-40 to reject his amendment that would have made it easier for some immigrants to obtain visas for family members left behind in their home countries.

“This action does nothing to allay my concerns about the increasingly right-wing tilt to these proceedings, and it makes it more difficult to vote in favor of invoking cloture on the bill,” Menendez said, referring to Thursday’s crucial vote to limit debate.

While Menendez and a few other Democrats may oppose the bill, the main opponents have been Bush’s fellow sunbelt Republicans. GOP Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Jeff Sessions of Alabama led the charge, often backed by Texans Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn.

Late Wednesday, they applauded the Senate’s refusal to reject a fairly low-key amendment that, because of parliamentary rules, left leaders no choice but to halt action until Thursday’s showdown vote.

“They tried to railroad this through today, but we derailed the train,” DeMint said. Asked if he was poised to kill the bill Thursday, DeMint replied, “we hope to.”

The bill’s bipartisan supporters, who include liberals such as Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and conservatives such as Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said they would push hard to survive Thursday’s vote. But they were frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm shown by many in the president’s party.

Some noted the virtual absence throughout Wednesday’s floor debate of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has declined to say how he would vote on the measure.

McConnell left GOP colleagues including Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to contend with the Vitter-DeMint-Sessions group, while Democrats were represented in the chamber most of the day by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.


  1. SEAL

    This is all so stupid. I can’t find anyone who thinks we should grant legal status to those who are in this country illegally. That includes those immigrants who have gone through the legal process to come here. I live in Florida that has one of the largest populations of immigants. Half the people I deal with on a daily basis are immigrants.

    There is absolute no need for any new immigation law. But there is a dire need to enforece the current laws. Especially, arresting and prosecuting those who hire illegals. Shut off the jobs and you shut off the illegals. As it is and has been for years, when they find Illegals, all they do is send them back to Mexico to do a 180 and cross again. Usually, to go right back to the same area, often to work for the same people. But when do you hear of an employer being arrested? The only one I ever knew of was fined $500.00.

    We see it all the time here in the citrus farms. Florida has a very large Mexican population. You should see the crappy conditions many of them live in. A dozen in an over priced run down one bedroom apartment on the edge of town or 20 in a shack out in the middle of nowhere just so they can work the fields here. No electic and no plumbing. That should be a crime. But, if there is only one illegal in the house, they can’t complain and turn their countryman in. When Hurrican Andrew hit in ’92 they were literally wiped out. Of course, there is no record of that.

    This is just another example of the Bush desire to do something dramatic. His entire tenure has been defined by doing the dramatic. That’s the main reason why he makes so many stupid decisions like the current “surge” in Iraq. A dramtic way to bring the country under control rather than the more intelligent and effective method of applying enough pressure to the Iraqi government to get their act together and do it. His desire for attention and to prove something is what makes him dangerous.

  2. Steve Horn

    Why all the debate over illegal immigrants? Note I said “illegal” – they’ve broken the law – they should not be molly-coddled – they should not go to the head of the line and they should not be allowed to remain in this country without legal status.

    We have a department of immigration and naturalization, we have immigration enforcement police, we have procedures for arrest, hearings and deportation, we don’t need more laws, we don’t need more bullshit – what we need is for this nation to start enforcing the laws that are in place and sending illegal immigrants back home – where – due to their previous law breaking behavior will be placed at the BACK END of the line for admission to this nation.

    I’m tired of the “debate” – would you debate what should be done with sex offenders? Would you debate what should be done with drunk drivers who kill others? Would you allow them to just go about with their lives like nothing happend? Of course not – what – then – makes these offenders different –

    It’s time to start using the laws of this nation – the exisitng ones –



    Who writes the laws? Agri-business crooks. Who gets rich from illegal slave wages? Agri-business crooks. Who drives small farmers off the land everywhere in the world? Agri-business crooks.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  4. bryan mcclellan

    Who is going to validate these 12 million,our govt,the Mexican govt ? Background checks,they can’t even identify who has over stayed a legal visa let alone find them!!!!!!!!Where did I leave my Xanax ?????????

  5. Sandra Price

    Apparently the bill did not make it through the senate. It is a dead issue until after the summer vacations. I’m pleased!

  6. Steve Horn

    Now – if they can just start enforcing the laws already on the books perhaps crossing the border will seem less attractive.

    I should note – I have nothing against immigration -all four of my grandparents came to the United States from Germany at various points in the last century – but they did so through legal means – they wanted to become citizens and did so – they learned English and used it with great pride – they were very proud to be American citizens. I draw a great distinction between folks like that – the many who had dreams of being “Americans” and those who just find it convenient to sneak across the border and live as outlaws – exposing themselves to abuse by business owners large and small.


  7. bryan mcclellan

    Yes it has been defeated, a major blow has been dealt for the American worker. Ditto what Mr. Horn has said, Legal we welcome,criminal you got to GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!Get in line…..