An Inkling of Bipartisanship on Immigration Reform
by Charles Lemos, Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 05:49:38 AM EST
Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, travelled to the White House to present the President with a three-page blueprint for a bipartisan agreement to overhaul the nation's immigration system. Details of the proposal were not released but Senator Graham noted that some of the elements included tougher border security, a program to admit temporary immigrant workers and a biometric Social Security card that would prevent people here illegally from getting jobs.
Some more background from the Los Angeles Times:
Graham also said the proposal included "a rational plan to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States." He did not elaborate on what the plan would be. But in a recent interview, he suggested that onerous measures were unrealistic.
"We're not going to mass-deport people and put them in jail, nor should we," Graham said. "But we need a system so they don't get an advantage over others for citizenship."
So far, so good, but Senator Graham also linked progress on immigration to the healthcare bill now winding its tortuous path through the Congress.
In a statement after the Obama meeting, Graham predicted that their effort would collapse if Senate Democrats proceeded with a strategy to pass a healthcare bill through a simple majority vote -- a process known as "reconciliation." Senate leaders say they are committed to doing just that.
"I expressed, in no uncertain terms, my belief that immigration reform could come to a halt for the year if healthcare reconciliation goes forward," said Graham, who portrayed the document handed to Obama as "a work in progress."
Graham added: "For more than a year, healthcare has sucked most of the energy out of the room. Using reconciliation to push healthcare through will make it much harder for Congress to come together on a topic as important as immigration."
The President had earlier met with a group of 14 immigration advocates that stressed to the President the urgency of moving forward with a plan that rationalizes the nation's dysfunctional immigration policies. There are an estimated 12 million people believed to have entered the US illegally. In the fiscal year that ended in September 2009, the U.S. deported 388,000 illegal immigrants, according to the Department of Homeland Security -- up from 369,000 the year before.
After meeting for more than an hour with Obama, immigration advocates that included leaders from the National Immigration Forum, La Raza and the SEIU told reporters they want Schumer-Graham blueprint released before a planned March 21 demonstration at the Capitol, with a bill introduced in the Senate soon thereafter.
Immigration advocates seemed most pleased. Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said the President agreed to help get a legislative framework out before the public in advance of the rally.
Hispanics supported President Obama in the general election by a two to one margin. The most recent polling shows that while the President's approval rating among has slipped since its peak at 73 percent last Spring, it still remains above 60 percent.