Monday, March 27, 2006

Immigration Reform: The Battle For the Borders

The Republican Party’s election-year push for immigration reform comes to a head this week in the Senate, and what happens will reverberate in November and well into the future

There are several immigration bills in play, but drawing the most attention are those proposed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and John McCain, both presumptive 2008 Republican presidential candidates.

Frist’s measure closely resembles hard-line legislation passed by the House in December called the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control bill.

That bill and Frist’s version of it do not include provisions pushed by President Bush that would designate some illegal aliens as guest workers so long as they agree to become citizens. The House and Frist bills would add thousands of new border patrol agents, beef up screening systems, impose fines against employers that knowingly hire illegal workers and, in effect, make it a crime to feed, shelter or provide health care to any of the 12 million undocumented aliens in the U.S.

Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy is co-sponsor of the McCain bill, which would grant 400,000 new guest-worker visas and give undocumented aliens a chance to stay if they pay a $1,000 fine, settle back tax bills, try to learn English and get to the back of the waiting list for a green card.

Getting any kind of reform legislation through Congress was never going to be easy, but the issue has divided a Republican Party increasingly at odds with itself and energized Democrats.

On the Republican side, the White House and pro-business moderates are pitted against hard liners eager to tap into voter anger on the issue. As unlikely as it seems, many Democrats side with the president and GOP moderates.

As is evident from massive protests, including the turnout of a half million people in Los Angeles on Sunday, the Democrats' inner-city base has been aroused by the issue and many Hispanics, an increasing number of whom have voted for Republicans in recent elections, are being alienated by the tough talk anbd thinly veiled racism of some Republicans.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church is throwing down the gauntlet. Some archbishops, including Roger Mahony of L.A., say they will instruct their priests to disobey any law that would subject them and other church and humanitarian workers to criminal penalties.

Following are three posts that address immigration reform. They include a blog from Yours Truly, one from the Highway Scribe, whose beat includes the U.S.-Mexico border, and a sampling of other voices.


No comments: