(by Stephen Dinan, WashingtonTimes.com) – The Bush administration, trying to win an immigration agreement with Democrats, is backing away from safeguards designed to target businesses that hire illegal aliens and to prevent a repeat of the rampant fraud that resulted from the 1986 amnesty.
Republicans are pleading with the Bush administration to hold firm on the safeguards, arguing that otherwise any new guest-worker program will be unworkable.
“We need their help on that,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who for two years has fought to give the Department of Homeland Security new tools to limit lawsuits, share information with the Social Security Administration and allow authorities to target those whose applications are denied and who should be deported.
Meanwhile, pressure from interest groups is driving the two sides even further apart, making a deal less likely.
Conservative groups say Republicans are caving on principles, while immigrant rights groups say the Democrats have already given up too much — and let Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hear about it yesterday morning. The Nevada Democrat said he arrived at his office to find “a bunch of phone calls from people around the country quite disturbed about a number of things in this proposed piece of legislation.”
President Bush has dispatched Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to try to broker a deal, but yesterday Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott said as many as 10 “sticking points” remain.
Democrats say Republicans are asking for too many restrictions and checks on illegal aliens before they can get on the path to citizenship, and object to restrictions on future guest workers, who under Republicans’ plans would have limited chances to become citizens.
Meanwhile, Republicans say they have made a major concession in accepting that many illegal aliens will now have a path to citizenship, and argue that the program should be stringent to weed out fraud and abuse.
The two sides are also stuck on how to redraw the legal immigration process, with Republicans pushing for a system that would prevent chain migration of siblings and adult children and would reward those with needed skills.
Twenty years after the 1986 amnesty, which legalized 2.7 million illegal aliens, lawsuits are still pending from some who were denied. And one in four of those granted legal status submitted fraudulent applications, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
Federal law also prevents the Social Security Administration or the Internal Revenue Service from sharing information about illegal aliens, even though those agencies can identify them through use of fraudulent Social Security numbers or taxpayer identification numbers — something Mr. Chertoff has said he wants to change.
And U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Emilio Gonzalez has called for information sharing and a limit to appeals, telling Congress earlier this year to pay attention to the “hard lessons learned from past reform efforts and to avoid repeating their mistakes in crafting new reform legislation.”
But Mr. Cornyn said the administration is not pressing for those changes in the current negotiations.
“I don’t think the director’s concerns have been communicated to the people that are at the table — Secretary Chertoff, Secretary Gutierrez and we could use their help,” he said.
One Senate Republican aide who has been following the negotiations said the issue came up at a meeting this week, and Mr. Chertoff stood by while Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Sen. Arlen Specter tried to sign off on enforcement provisions without including the safeguards.
“When Cornyn stepped out of the meeting, the above three tried to get everyone to sign off on Title II without any of these provisions,” the aide said.
Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, one of the lead Republican negotiators, objected on Mr. Cornyn’s behalf, leaving the issue still undecided.
Republicans say the administration is caving because it doesn’t want to lose Mr. Kennedy’s support for a deal.
Democrats, though, argue that removing confidentiality and sharing information could deter illegal aliens from coming forward to join the legalization program, and argue they raise privacy concerns for U.S. citizens. They also argue that limiting appeals for those denied by the program could hurt those with a legitimate case.
“Our immigration system is broken and certainly needs to be fixed, but in the process, we don’t want to make it worse than what it was to start with,” Mr. Reid said, giving negotiations just a 50 percent chance of producing a bill.
Immigrant advocacy groups say Democrats have already conceded too much. One group is staging a protest outside of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s New York City offices, demanding that she get involved and head off Republicans’ efforts to try to draw the bill to the right.
“No Family, No Deal! Guestworker, No Deal!” shouted a press release from the New York Immigration Coalition, declaring: “The dealmaking has gone in the wrong direction, and they are on the verge of making a deal that will tear immigrant families apart, undermine basic rights, and divide America.”
From the other side, the American Legion is calling on Congress to reject amnesty and reduce the illegal alien population through enforcement.
Unless negotiators reach a deal, the next test will come Monday, when Democrats will move to bring up last year’s bill and debate it instead, and Republicans will have to decide whether to filibuster it.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Jerry Seper contributed to this report.
Copyright 2007 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com
1. What is the purpose of the safeguards included in the immigration reform bill?
2. a) Why is the Bush administration backing away from the safeguards?
b) Do you support this position? Explain your answer.
3. a) Why are conservative groups critical of Republicans on the immigration reform bill?
b) Why are liberal groups critical of Democrats on the immigration reform bill?
4. a) What problems do Democrats have with the Republican plan?
b) How did Republicans respond to these criticisms?
5. Should immigration reform legislation include illegal and legal immigration, or should each be addressed separately? Explain your answer.
6. a) What are somee problems with the 1986 amnesty which legalized 2.7 million illegals?
b) What has U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Emilio Gonzalez proposed be done to avoid those problems now and in the future?
7. Why don’t Democrats want to allow information sharing about illegal aliens between agencies or limiting appeals for illegal immigrants denied by the program?
8. What do you think is the best way to solve the problem our country faces with illegal immigrants:
a) give all legal status and allow them to “come out of the shadows”
b) enforce existing immigration laws and secure the border to force illegals to eventually leave the country
c) another suggestion
Explain your answer.
OPTIONAL: Feel strongly about this issue? Send an email to your Senators and Representative expressing your opinion on immigration reform. Be clear, concise and polite.
Currently there are approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. Americans are demanding that Congress do something about the problem of illegal immigrants. In general, conservatives say our borders should be secured and current immigration laws enforced first. They do not advocate mass deportation. They believe that securing the borders and enforcing immigration laws will cause illegals to return to their own countries themselves. In general, liberals say that an amnesty or guest worker program needs to be established at the same time as securing our borders. Immigration rights groups believe that illegal immigrants should be given the same rights as citizens, and also be made legal residents with a path to citizenship.
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