April 7, 2006
Immigration Impasse- April 7, 2006
Despite the leadership of Senators Martinez, Hagel, McCain, Specter
and Kennedy who fought so hard for a good substantive package, the
Senate was unable to reach an agreement on an immigration reform
bill before it went to recess today. At this point, the fate of
the bill and the compromise met between Senators Martinez and Hagel
is unknown. It is unclear as to when the Senate will take up this
issue again; it may be placed on the Senate calendar after the two-week
recess concludes. It is disappointing that parliamentary procedural
politics have derailed the immigration bill from going forward when
so many Senators on both sides of the aisle were on board.
During the late night battle that ensued, Democrats continued
to demand assurances from Republicans that they would stand by the
agreement and defend it during conference when the Senate tries
to reconcile its bill with the conservative House and their enforcement
only bill, H.R. 4437. Democrats blame Republicans for offering up
so many amendments in an effort to modify the agreement and they
feared that such changes would dilute and distort the compromise.
As a result, Democrats, led by Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid
(D-NV), refused to allow votes on the amendments. Senator Reid,
termed the effort "filibuster by amendment". Thus no agreement was
reached. As noted by Senator Kennedy, a champion on the issue, "I
think politics got in front of policy on this issue."
The details of the compromise package was not completely worked
out, but these are some of the specifics as it relates to the treatment
of undocumented immigrants. In essence, the estimated 11-12 million
undocumented would be separated out into 3 groups, each with different
requirements. They are as follows:
- Those individuals who have been here and working for more
than 5 years would be eligible to embark immediately on a path
to earn permanent residence and ultimately citizenship. That
path would involve a 6-8 year prospective work requirement,
a clean record, English language study, and the payment of significant
fines and back taxes.
- The second category of undocumented individuals would be
those who arrived less than 5 years ago but before January 7,
2004. This group would be required to pay significant fines
and, within three years, would be required to leave the country
and reenter in a temporary status. Upon reentry, these individuals
would have full job portability and could apply for permanent
resident status after the first category of undocumented workers
completed their processing.
- The final group of undocumented workers, those who arrived
after January 7, 2004, would be required to leave the country,
but they would be permitted to apply for the new temporary worker
program subject to the numerical limitations.
While the committee package was not perfect, it was the closest
Congress has come to producing a favorable immigration law in the
past 20 years. This compromise was a good deal and certainly was
better than no reform and returning to the status quo. As GT learns
more, we will keep you posted. During the recess break, please contact
and visit your Senators in their district offices and urge them
to support a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill.
The status quo is no longer acceptable.