Congress is in session again after Easter break and observers were this week pointing to a three week window in May during which the senate is expected to try again to reach a deal on an issue that has thus far tested its limits of collegiality.
Senators crafted a deal before the break, but it collapsed at the last minute amid a welter of finger pointing.
A bipartisan group of senators visited the White house Tuesday for discussions on reform with President Bush.
Significantly, the president, in a speech delivered in California Monday, expressed the view that it would be impractical to attempt to deport as many as eleven million undocumented and illegal immigrants.
Bush indicated that he wanted to see a compromise bill emerging from the Senate, which has a 55-45 Republican majority.
Observers agree that the president’s role in the reform debate is crucial and will become even more important if Congress can’t get out of its present logjam.
“We need Bush’s leadership,” a well-placed Washington source said Tuesday.
Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee held another hearing on reform this week but it was confined to consideration of the economic impacts of immigration.
The prevailing sense among reform advocates is that there will not be any further attempt to craft a compromise in the Judiciary panel but that there will be instead a Senate floor vote before Congress rises for the Memorial Day recess on May 26.
Most senators have indicated that they want something to be passed and it is believed that reform backers believe they have the 60 votes necessary to end debate and move to a vote.
What will become critical at such a point is how reform movers can handle amendments, some of them likely from Senators on both sides of the argument.
Politics, invariably, has become enmeshed with the reform issue. While some Republicans oppose anything that smack of an amnesty for illegals, others in the party are desperate to come up with a result on immigration before the November mid-term elections.
Some Democrats are advocating for a clear path to earned legalization while others, one source argued, would be quite happy to see immigration become and election issue because they feel it would benefit the party.
One Democrat who raised eyebrows this week was Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton, who is undoubtedly in the reform camp, told the Daily News that she favored first towards enhanced border control before anything else.
The process of legalizing illegal and undocumented immigrants would wait for a year or two years after the border with Mexico was secured.
Enhanced border security is supported across the board in Congress but most reform advocates want a simultaneous process of greater security along the nation’s boundaries, and relief within its fifty states.
The bill that emerges from the Senate, if based on the already existent Hagel/Martinez compromise, would allow a path to earned legalization for qualifying persons in the U.S. since before January 7, 2004. Those who have arrived since that date would have to first return to their countries before getting a chance to return.
Meanwhile, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform is holding another in its series of town hall meetings this Sunday in Mineola, Long Island. Former congressman Bruce Morrison is the main speaker.
An ILIR delegation was in Washington last week for a meeting with top staffers in Sen. Specter’s office.
The delegation was made up of ILIR president Grant Lally, vice chairman Ciaran Staunton and Tom Conaghan who heads the Federation of Irish Societies of the Delaware Valley and the Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center in Philadelphia.
“I felt very positive about the meeting with Specter’s aides,” Staunton told the Echo.
He said that the delegation had about four hours of meetings in various congressional offices on Capitol Hill, all of them largely encouraging.
Separately, the Irish American Labor Coalition was this week urging support for comprehensive reform.
“The outcome of this issue will affect the most vulnerable members of our society, legal and illegal alike. It is incumbent upon us all to seek a rational and fair response to the immigration crisis,” coalition president Joseph Jamison, and secretary/treasurer Daniel Kane, said in a joint statement.
“It is imperative that Congress seek a solution that provides the 11 million undocumented with a path to citizenship. Opportunity to earn legal status must also be afforded to workers entering the U.S. on a temporary work visa. This is the only realistic way to manage immigration,” they stated.
“We are aware that our Congressional leaders face an arduous task. We all stand to loose a great deal if the complexities of this issue are not given proper consideration” Jamison and Kane concluded.