Meanwhile, President George W. Bush made a strong plea for temporary work visas during his State of the Union address last week.
Bush argued that the U.S. needed immigrants in order to keep the nation’s economy growing.
With regard to the reform issue in Congress, the expectation as of this week was that the Senate Judiciary Committee could take up the various reform bills as early as Thursday, March 2.
The initial discussion in the committee would focus primarily on the proposal drawn up by its chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
Specter has presented a so-called “chairman’s mark” which is comprised of original proposals and some aspects of other bills including the Senate’s McCain/Kennedy bill, and the Sensenbrenner/King bill, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives.
The Judiciary Committee hearing is a prelude to full Senate consideration but St. Patrick’s Day is likely to delay that for some days after March 17.
This year, for the first time, Congress is taking a week off after the Irish patron saint’s day and officially labeling the break as the St. Patrick’s Day recess.
That would mean that the earliest likely date for a Senate debate on whatever the judiciary Committee presents it would begin on Monday, March 27.
Given the sharp contrast in the main bills, that debate could some time, weeks if not months to complete.
Meanwhile, Bush noticeably advanced his position on reform in his State of the Union speech to the joint houses of Congress.
“We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy, even though this economy could not function without them,” he said.
“All these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction toward a stagnant and second-rate economy,” the president added.
“Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values and serves the interests of our economy.
“Our nation needs orderly and secure borders. To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. And we must have a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty, allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally, and reduces smuggling and crime at the border,” he added.
However, as with previous statements, Bush did not go into detail as to how he exactly defines amnesty.
How he, and Congress, ultimately defines it will have a profound effect on the lives of tens of thousands of undocumented Irish.