Category: Archive

Senate says ‘Yes’

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Nevertheless, prospects for immigration reform that will grant at least some relief to as many as 50,000 Irish rose when the U.S. Senate last week voted in favor of a reform bill that carries the essential principles outlined in an earlier version of the bill penned by Senators Edward Kennedy and John McCain.
The 62-38 vote sets the stage for a tense and testy debate between senators and members of the House of Representatives who earlier laid down their mark with a bill that provides no road to legalization.
They will battle over the future of immigration law in a conference phase that could nudge up against the November midterm elections when all 435 members of the House and a third of the 100-member Senate must face an electorate that is sharply divided on the immigration issue.
“We are hopeful that reform advocates will maintain pressure to ensure that there will be a place in the line for all the undocumented Irish who want to regularize their lives in America,” Thomas Keown, spokesman for the Irish Immigration Center in Boston, said in reaction to the Senate vote.

Long hot summer looms for immigration

To some in Congress it has been progress, a dramatic breakthrough.
To others it is a disaster and a call to arms.
Last week’s Senate vote in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform bill has established a congressional standoff that, while long expected, is still blurred along party and historical lines to the point of being especially unpredictable.
What is certain is a heated debate in the weeks and likely months ahead.
But better a battle than no fight at all is the view of reform backers.
“If we can change the minds of people in the Senate then we need to put the same effort in to help change the minds of the House,” Kelly Fincham, executive director of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform said in reaction to last Thursday’s vote in the Senate.
That vote has given a huge boost to advocates for millions of illegal and undocumented immigrants, as many as 40,000 to 50,000 Irish among them.
The Senate passed a bill that has the fingerprints of a number of senators on its 700 pages but, most crucially for the Irish, also contains the earned legalization plan enunciated in the earlier McCain/Kennedy reform bill.
Thursday’s vote was a decisive 62-36 with two senators, both Democrats, not voting. Four other Democrats sided with the minority while 23 Republicans and the Senate’s sole independent lined up with 38 Democrats on the ‘Yea’ side.
The vote drew immediate fire from opponents in a House of Representatives that previously passed a bill that deals with enforcement and border security while completely ignoring so-called earned legalization.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, who chairs the 97-member House Immigration Reform Caucus, delivered an immediate thumbs down to the Senate measure.
“The battle is joined,” said Tancredo who described the Senate bill as the “largest illegal alien amnesty in American history.”
“It is bad for our national security, it is bad for American workers, and it sends a very bad message to those waiting legally for their chance at the American dream,” Tancredo said in a statement carried on his website.
House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner – co-author of the House bill along with New York’s Peter King – also dismissed the bill.
Supporters in the Senate, not least Edward Kennedy and John McCain, took a very different tack.
“This is the most far-reaching immigration reform in our history. It is a comprehensive and realistic attempt to solve the real-world problems that have festered for too long in our broken immigration system,” Kennedy said.
The Senate bill does call for beefed up security at the nation’s borders and for new fencing along the frontier with Mexico.
One of its amendments changes the diversity visa program to the point that it would be completely out of reach to virtually every Irish applicant.
But it is the earned legalization provisions that are attracting the greater attention of both reform backers and critics.
“It’s hard to see with all the swirling forces how something comes out that is acceptable to all sides,” said one Capitol Hill source.
“There will be a meaningful conference, whether it is a successful one and when it starts is as yet unclear,” said a separate source with regard the anticipated House/Senate conference phase.
This will either end in disagreement or a compromise bill for President bush’s consideration.
Further complicating matters is House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s policy of allowing votes on major issues only if most of the House’s 231 Republicans back them.
Rep. Tancredo was indicating this week that he expected Hastert to stick to this “majority of the majority” practice.
Many observers were pointing to the growing importance of President Bush as the one figure who could span the House/Senate divide.
The Senate bill, meanwhile, would allow for a temporary guest worker program and an earned legalization program that would vary in effect depending on the length of an individual’s overstay.
Those in the U.S. five years or longer would be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship while having to comply with certain provisions. Those in the country two to five years would have to leave the U.S. and apply for a green card. They would be allowed a rapid return, however.
Those in the country for less than two years would be subject to deportation.
Critics on both sides of the debate are already saying that this tree-tier system, as currently configured, will be unmanageable.
The Senate bill was, meanwhile, welcomed by leaders of all major parties in Ireland.
Foreign minister Dermot Ahern was in Washington last week to show Irish government support for reform.
Party leaders including Sinn F

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