Monday, March 12, 2007

While various Democrats and Republicans lawmakers on Capitol Hill have stated immigration reform is a priority, the continued delay in the release of an immigration bill has some wondering how much support there really is for a massive guest worker amnesty program. In a prominent article published in Roll Call this week, interviews and statements by lawmakers signal increasing discord about the political implications of passing Senator Kennedy's "comprehensive immigration reform" legislation. According to Roll Call, "With Republicans looking to regain control of the Senate and Democrats hoping to pad their majority in 2008, neither party appears inclined to make the political sacrifices necessary to pass a broad immigration bill this year and may be content to simply duel to a rhetorical draw this summer." Indeed, the continued outcry from constituents opposed to guest worker amnesty legislation has many Members of Congress considering and re-considering their positions carefully.
The wild-card at this point in the debate appears to be whether the White House will fully back the highly anticipated McCain-Kennedy legislation or whether it will encourage alternative guest worker amnesty measures. Although some Republicans have already committed to Senator Kennedy's plan for "comprehensive immigration reform", more and more appear to be prepared to buck the Bush Administration if it renews its support for Kennedy's bill. This divide may explain why the Bush Administration is reportedly meeting with Republicans and pressuring them to adopt a consensus position on immigration reform. In the Senate, former backers of the McCain-Kennedy legislation, including Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Mel Martinez (R-FL) are entering discussions with Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), a vocal opponent to McCain-Kennedy, to create an alternative immigration reform package which may or may not contain guest worker amnesty provisions. "If we can get a bill that all of us can agree to and hold 40 votes together, then we can have a real debate on the issue," said Brownback.
In addition, a growing number of Democrats - including freshmen who campaigned on enacting tougher illegal immigration policies - are predicted to create roadblocks. While Congressional leaders have indicated that they would like to take up the issue this spring, CongressDaily reports that aides in both parties predict that the debate could stall in spite of the fact that House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid have set a deadline of August 3rd for passing comprehensive immigration bills.

Cornyn Amendment Targeting Criminal Aliens Defeated on Senate Floor
During floor debate on the 9/11 Commission Recommendations bill (S.4) last week, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) offered three amendments to the 9/11 Commission to improve the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws where national security is at issue. Together, these amendments would:
make it a crime to recruit people to commit terrorist acts;
authorize the immediate deportation of suspected terrorists whose visas are revoked on terrorism grounds;
prevent the release of dangerous illegal immigrants whose home countries delay their return to their home country;
make it a crime to encourage terrorism by rewarding the families of suicide bombers after the bombings take place; and
increase penalties for those who call families of soldiers serving overseas and falsely claim that their family member has been killed.
In a released statement, Senator Cornyn said, "The goal of the 9/11 bill is to move forward with the Commission's remaining initiatives that will strengthen the security of America and its people. These three amendments are important and overdue steps forward to help the federal government meet that goal."
By Friday, however, Senators had defeated the Cornyn amendment (S.AMDT.312)—which consolidated the three originally offered. The defeat was achieved procedurally when a motion to end debate (so that a vote could take place) failed by a vote of 46-49. The final vote on passage of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations bill may come as early as Tuesday, March 13, 2007. To see how your Senator voted on the Cornyn amendment, click here.

U.S. to Open Borders to Mexican Truckers
The United States has created a pilot program that would allow truck drivers from Mexico to deliver goods across the country in an effort, as Bush Administration officials describe, to further implement sections of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The 'demonstration project' will allow drivers from 100 Mexican trucking companies to drive pass the 25-75 mile 'commercial zones' on the border and deliver goods to their final destinations within the continental United States - a practice that has many American truck drivers and safety advocates outraged.
Concerned about the security implications of this new trucking provision of NAFTA, Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, convened a hearing to question Administration officials on the proposed pilot program - which is set to begin within the next 60 days. While the Chairwoman acknowledged that her home state of Washington proves that expanded trade is beneficial to the U.S., Senator Murray indicated she has deep reservations about the program and declared that "safety must never take a back seat to economic prosperity."
At the hearing, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters vowed that the pilot program participants will have to adhere to strict safety guidelines, including requirements that trucking companies hold U.S. insurance policies, that drivers pass drug testing and acquire proper visas, and that 100% of containers will be checked when entering the United States. These guidelines were met with heavy criticism however—in part because driver testing will be conducted in Mexico, where results could be easily compromised. "Millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been spent, and will continue to be spent…doing what the government cannot, or will not do - ensure the safety of the Mexican trucking industry by adopting meaningful, compatible regulations," said Mr. Charlie Parfrey, a trucking company owner and representative of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The hearing also brought to light other preferences granted to Mexican truckers, including the fact that American truckers will be barred from participating in a reciprocal program in Mexico for six months of the one year program.
Fueling speculation that the pilot program's accelerated start date was politically motivated, President Bush just kicked off a five-day Latin America tour, which will culminate with a visit to Mexico to speak with newly-elected President Calderon about trade and immigration.

Congressman Poe Introduces Resolution to Support State and Local GovernmentsThis week, Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and 27 other co-sponsors introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives (H.Con.Res.83) urging Congress to support state and local governments that take action to discourage illegal immigration. The resolution, drafted in consultation with FAIR, states that the failure of the federal government to curb illegal immigration has placed a great burden on state and local governments and that numerous legislatures and local councils have responded by taking proactive measures and incurring great expense to address the problem. The resolution further urges Congress to support such actions taken at the state and local level by quickly passing border security and immigration enforcement legislation. To see which Representatives have co-sponsored this resolution introduced by Congressman Poe, click here.

Recent Floor Statements
Acting President commented on Improving America's Security Act Of 2007 (March 9, 2007)
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) commented Border Protectors Under Physical Attack (March 9, 2007)
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) commented on In Support Of Funding The State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (March 9, 2007)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) commented on Improving America's Security Act Of 2007--Continued (March 8, 2007)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) commented on Improving America's Security (March 8, 2007)
ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore commented on Improving America's Security Act Of 2007 (March 7, 2007)
Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) commented on Congressional Immigration Caucus (March 7, 2007)
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) commented on Tougher Border Control Policies Will Help Reduce Crime In The United States (March 7, 2007)
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) commented on Directo A Mexico (March 7, 2007)
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-ILL) commented on The Citizenship Promotion Act Of 2007 (March 7, 2007)
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) commented on Improving America's Security Act Of 2007--Continued (March 6, 2007)
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) commented on U.S. Border Patrol Agents Ramos And Compean (March 6, 2007)
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) commented on Federal Government Protecting Border Violators (March 6, 2007)
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) commented on Improving America's Security Act Of 2007--Continued (March 5, 2007)
Presiding Officer commented on Improving America's Security Act Of 2007 (March 5, 2007)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) commented on Consideration of S. 4 (March 5, 2007)
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) commented on Former U.S. Border Patrol Agents Ramos And Compean (March 5, 2007)

Press Release
People Who Violate Immigration Laws are More Likely to Violate Other Laws (March 08, 2007)
Senate Hearing on Mexican Trucks (March 8, 2007)