Category: Archive

Senate girding for new battle on immigration

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Round one of the battle over what should be done about the nation’s millions of undocumented immigrants will center on a controversial move by the House of Representatives to attach a restrictive immigration bill to an entirely separate measure dealing with appropriations for the military.
The House bill, the Real ID Act, was passed in February by a clear margin of 261 to 161 votes.
Advocates for the undocumented argue that the Real ID Act will short-circuit the overall immigration reform debate in Congress by forcing huge numbers of undocumented, Irish included, to quit the U.S. before broader reform legislation emerges from the House and Senate.
After House approval, the act was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights.
Initial indications were that the Senate was in no hurry to take up what is a highly controversial bill, one that would block the issuing of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants while also tightening security at the nation’s borders.
But the move by the House to attach the Real ID Act to an appropriations bill, which, among other thing, covers the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now being seen as both forcing the Senate’s hand but also opening the door for a full-scale debate over immigration.
“We should be very wary of this move,” Tom Conaghan of the Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center in Philadelphia said of the House bid to link restrictive immigration proposals to the funding of military operations overseas.
A significant factor that is muddying the congressional water on the eve of the debate is that the conflicting views on how immigration law should be changed are not clearly delineated by party affiliation.
In the Senate, Democrat Edward Kennedy is expected to spearhead an effort to block any legislative link between driver’s licenses and military operations.
Republican John McCain is currently working with Kennedy to put together a comprehensive immigration-reform bill that would provide a path to so-called “earned legalization” for those undocumented or illegal immigrants deemed eligible.
Congressional observers are, however, most closely watching the immigration debate within the GOP, which enjoys majority status in both the House and Senate.
The Washington Post reported in recent days that the immigration debate was pitting one core GOP constituency, law-and-order conservatives, against another made up of business interests that see a need for immigrant labor in an economy that, according to a Bureau of Labor study, will have only 154 million workers to match 161 million jobs by 2008.
“One camp wants to tighten borders and deport people who are here illegally; the other seeks to bring illegal workers out of the shadows and acknowledge their growing economic importance,” the Post reported.
The economic contradictions thrown up by current immigration law was highlighted this week in a letter sent to D_il member Jimmy Deenihan, one of a growing number of TDs highlighting the plight of the undocumented Irish.
The letter, from an undocumented Irish woman living in New York, highlighted the plight faced by thousands of undocumented Irish across the U.S.
“I have been living here since 1990,” the woman wrote in her letter to Deenihan, a copy of which was also sent to the Echo. “I have put myself through college and I am now a New York licensed registered nurse. I pay my taxes, but, unfortunately I cannot work as an RN even though there is a major shortage of nurses in this country.”

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