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Thread: Senate Immigration Reform Hearing Updates

  1. #1
    At the rate they're going there is no way the 3/27 deadline will be met. They've covered 2 titles out of the 8 found in the Chairman's mark and still need to revisit amendments offered to both of those sections.

    Also of concern is the fact that a lot of the Senators on the Committee are AWOL, thus making a quorum impossible. Specter has vocalized his displeasure and stated that he knew some of the MIA Senators were not scheduled to be anywhere else. He also stated that he was going to ask those Senators if they really wanted to be on the Committee. Senators are also continually leaving the hearing to attend other hearings, meeting, etc. This is really slowing down progress.

    Sen. Feinstein also spoke out against the pace with which the sections were being covered. She complained to Specter that he was going to fast. She affirmed her desire to take things slow in order to do things right. Specter agreed with her and stated that the committee would take as long as it needed to produce a bill that would work.

    Here is a summary of what happened on 3/8 and 3/9.

    Senate Judiciary Committee Makes Some Headway in Markup, Defers Difficult Questions

    The Senate Judiciary Committee finally began to make some headway today in its markup of Chairman Specter's draft bill on comprehensive immigration reform, known as the "Chairman's Mark." The Committee officially took up the bill last Thursday (March 2), but got little beyond opening statements. Progress was also scarce on Day 2 of the markup yesterday, when Chairman Specter had difficulty maintaining a voting quorum. Several competing committee markups plus Senate floor votes seemed to be the primary cause of the attendance problems, with committee members coming in and out throughout the day, but rarely numbering the 8 required for votes to occur.

    The Committee finally appeared to hit its stride today, although it continued to defer action on much of the more controversial subject matter. Chairman Specter has been proceeding through the Mark sequentially, and has only made it through Titles I and II thus far, leaving an incredible amount of work yet to be done in the two markup sessions that remain. (As background, Senate Majority Leader Frist has threatened to bring his enforcement-only legislation directly to the Senate floor unless the Judiciary Committee produces a bill by March 27.) The controversial and highly technical titles dealing with employer sanctions, the undocumented population, a guestworker program, and judicial review all still await consideration.

    That having been said, the following is a very brief summary of the amendments that have been addressed thus far. We will continue to update you as action on the bill continues.

    Summary of Wednesday, March 8, amendments:

    1. A Feinstein amendment that would add more border patrol agents was deferred for future consideration.

    2. A Brownback/Sessions amendment on information sharing between the Social Security Administration and the DHS was deferred for future consideration.

    3. A Kyl amendment on more fencing along certain sectors of the border in Arizona was deferred for future consideration.

    4. A Kyl amendment on increased detention beds was accepted by the bill manager (Chairman Specter) and will be part of a further amended Chairman's Mark.

    5. A Kyl amendment mandating and authorizing funding for DHS to provide sufficient transportation for aliens apprehended by state/local authorities passed by voice vote.

    7. A Cornyn amendment providing for the reimbursement to states and local governments for training and equipment costs related to the enforcement of federal immigration laws passed by voice vote.

    8. A Durbin amendment to strike the Mark's criminalization of unlawful status, and to ameliorate its smuggling provision so as not to criminalize humanitarian assistance, was deferred for future consideration.

    9. A Cornyn amendment that would authorize the DHS Secretary to deny a visa to any alien from a country that has denied or unreasonably delayed the acceptance of its citizens who are ordered removed from the U.S. passed by a voice vote.

    10. The Committee deferred action on a Feingold three-part amendment that would:
    (1) strike the "described in" language throughout Title II of the bill (that would bar benefits to aliens "described in" certain sections of the statute and the criminal code);
    (2) reinstate the judicial review of naturalization decisions that the Mark would do away with; and
    (3) assure full access to the federal courts when naturalization proceedings are delayed. Again, the Mark would effectively negate such review.

    11. A Leahy amendment on cooperation between the U.S. and other governments on security-related issues was deferred.

    12. A Brownback amendment to strike the sunset of J-waiver program for foreign doctors in underserved areas was deferred.

    13. A second Brownback amendment to exempt nurses and physical therapists from the annual employment-based and country caps was also deferred.

    14. A Coburn amendment to mandate expedited removal within 100 miles of the southern border and within 14 days of entry was deferred.

    15. A Sessions amendment to the Kyl amendment on fences was withdrawn. Senator Sessions indicated that he may reoffer it on during floor consideration.

    16. A Cornyn amendment barring convicted *** offenders from sponsoring family members was deferred.


    Summary of Thursday, March 9, amendments:

    1. A Kyl amendment to provide more fencing in certain Arizona sectors passed by voice vote.

    2. A related amendment by Kennedy requiring a study prior to construction of any additional physical barriers also passed by a voice vote.

    3. A Sessions amendment to increase the number of Border Patrol Agents from 2,000 to 2,400 passed by voice vote. A related amendment by Graham to require the Department of Defense to liaise with DHS and to inform its riffed and/or otherwise departing military personnel of employment opportunities available within the Border Patrol also passed by a voice vote.

    4. A Kennedy amendment to improve agency coordination on alien smuggling issues passed by voice vote.

    5. The Committee reserved action on a Sessions amendment to increase penalties for evading inspection.

    6. A Sessions amendment to provide an extension of preemption to required construction of day laborer shelters passed by voice vote.

    7. A Grassley amendment to require the DHS Inspector General to review all contracts related to the Secure Border Initiative worth $20 million or more passed by voice vote.

    8. A Leahy amendment on cooperation between the U.S. and other governments on security-related issues was once again deferred.

    9. A Sessions amendment requiring the mandatory detention of "Other Than Mexicans" (OTMs) apprehended at or between the ports of entry passed by a voice vote. The amendment would take effect on Oct. 1, 2006, with an interim period beginning 60 days after enactment during which the DHS Secretary could release an alien after completion of appropriate background checks and with the posting of a bond of at least $5,000. There was lots of debate on the issue, most of it centering on the current shortage of detention space. In addition, the amendment as drafted provides an exception for Cubans. There was some confusion about this carve-out and it is unclear whether Members modified the amendment to eliminate it.

    10. A Cornyn amendment barring convicted *** offenders from sponsoring family members passed by voice vote.

    11. A Grassley amendment to increase the number of enforcement personnel allocated to each state passed by voice vote.

    12. A Grassley amendment to add habitual drunk driving to the list of aggravated felonies was reserved for future action.

    13. A Durbin amendments to (1) strike the section of the Mark that would criminalize unlawful status, and (2) ameliorate the smuggling provisions so as not to criminalize the provision of humanitarian assistance were deferred, with instructions to staffers to work out details of the humanitarian assistance language.

    14. Over Feingold's strong objections, the Committee once again deferred action on a Feingold three-part amendment that would:
    (1) strike the "described in" language throughout Title II of the bill (that would bar benefits to aliens "described in" certain sections of the statute and the criminal code);
    (2) Reinstate the judicial review of naturalization decisions that the Mark would do away with; and
    (3) Assure full access to the federal courts when naturalization proceedings are delayed. Again, the Mark would effectively negate such review.

    15. A Brownback amendment to permanently authorize the J-1 waiver program for foreign doctors working in underserved areas passed by a voice vote.

    16. A Brownback amendment to exempt nurses and physical therapists from the annual employment-based and per-country caps was again deferred.

    17. A Coburn amendment authorizing the DHS to impose expedited removal mandating expedited removal within 100 miles of the southern border and within 14 days of entry passed on a voice vote, as did a 2nd degree amendment excluding LPRs from expedited removal.

    18. The Committee deferred action on a Kennedy amendment that would strike the retroactive application of some of the Mark's provisions.

    19. A Feinstein amendment providing a carve-out for refugees and asylees from the Mark' passport fraud provisions (section 208) passed on a voice vote, with an agreement that her staff would work with Kyl's staff to tighten the language.

    Also, prior to leaving for another meeting, Sen. Sessions listed about 8 amendments to title 2 of the mark that he would like to offer up for a vote during the next meeting of the committee.

  2. #2
    At the rate they're going there is no way the 3/27 deadline will be met. They've covered 2 titles out of the 8 found in the Chairman's mark and still need to revisit amendments offered to both of those sections.

    Also of concern is the fact that a lot of the Senators on the Committee are AWOL, thus making a quorum impossible. Specter has vocalized his displeasure and stated that he knew some of the MIA Senators were not scheduled to be anywhere else. He also stated that he was going to ask those Senators if they really wanted to be on the Committee. Senators are also continually leaving the hearing to attend other hearings, meeting, etc. This is really slowing down progress.

    Sen. Feinstein also spoke out against the pace with which the sections were being covered. She complained to Specter that he was going to fast. She affirmed her desire to take things slow in order to do things right. Specter agreed with her and stated that the committee would take as long as it needed to produce a bill that would work.

    Here is a summary of what happened on 3/8 and 3/9.

    Senate Judiciary Committee Makes Some Headway in Markup, Defers Difficult Questions

    The Senate Judiciary Committee finally began to make some headway today in its markup of Chairman Specter's draft bill on comprehensive immigration reform, known as the "Chairman's Mark." The Committee officially took up the bill last Thursday (March 2), but got little beyond opening statements. Progress was also scarce on Day 2 of the markup yesterday, when Chairman Specter had difficulty maintaining a voting quorum. Several competing committee markups plus Senate floor votes seemed to be the primary cause of the attendance problems, with committee members coming in and out throughout the day, but rarely numbering the 8 required for votes to occur.

    The Committee finally appeared to hit its stride today, although it continued to defer action on much of the more controversial subject matter. Chairman Specter has been proceeding through the Mark sequentially, and has only made it through Titles I and II thus far, leaving an incredible amount of work yet to be done in the two markup sessions that remain. (As background, Senate Majority Leader Frist has threatened to bring his enforcement-only legislation directly to the Senate floor unless the Judiciary Committee produces a bill by March 27.) The controversial and highly technical titles dealing with employer sanctions, the undocumented population, a guestworker program, and judicial review all still await consideration.

    That having been said, the following is a very brief summary of the amendments that have been addressed thus far. We will continue to update you as action on the bill continues.

    Summary of Wednesday, March 8, amendments:

    1. A Feinstein amendment that would add more border patrol agents was deferred for future consideration.

    2. A Brownback/Sessions amendment on information sharing between the Social Security Administration and the DHS was deferred for future consideration.

    3. A Kyl amendment on more fencing along certain sectors of the border in Arizona was deferred for future consideration.

    4. A Kyl amendment on increased detention beds was accepted by the bill manager (Chairman Specter) and will be part of a further amended Chairman's Mark.

    5. A Kyl amendment mandating and authorizing funding for DHS to provide sufficient transportation for aliens apprehended by state/local authorities passed by voice vote.

    7. A Cornyn amendment providing for the reimbursement to states and local governments for training and equipment costs related to the enforcement of federal immigration laws passed by voice vote.

    8. A Durbin amendment to strike the Mark's criminalization of unlawful status, and to ameliorate its smuggling provision so as not to criminalize humanitarian assistance, was deferred for future consideration.

    9. A Cornyn amendment that would authorize the DHS Secretary to deny a visa to any alien from a country that has denied or unreasonably delayed the acceptance of its citizens who are ordered removed from the U.S. passed by a voice vote.

    10. The Committee deferred action on a Feingold three-part amendment that would:
    (1) strike the "described in" language throughout Title II of the bill (that would bar benefits to aliens "described in" certain sections of the statute and the criminal code);
    (2) reinstate the judicial review of naturalization decisions that the Mark would do away with; and
    (3) assure full access to the federal courts when naturalization proceedings are delayed. Again, the Mark would effectively negate such review.

    11. A Leahy amendment on cooperation between the U.S. and other governments on security-related issues was deferred.

    12. A Brownback amendment to strike the sunset of J-waiver program for foreign doctors in underserved areas was deferred.

    13. A second Brownback amendment to exempt nurses and physical therapists from the annual employment-based and country caps was also deferred.

    14. A Coburn amendment to mandate expedited removal within 100 miles of the southern border and within 14 days of entry was deferred.

    15. A Sessions amendment to the Kyl amendment on fences was withdrawn. Senator Sessions indicated that he may reoffer it on during floor consideration.

    16. A Cornyn amendment barring convicted *** offenders from sponsoring family members was deferred.


    Summary of Thursday, March 9, amendments:

    1. A Kyl amendment to provide more fencing in certain Arizona sectors passed by voice vote.

    2. A related amendment by Kennedy requiring a study prior to construction of any additional physical barriers also passed by a voice vote.

    3. A Sessions amendment to increase the number of Border Patrol Agents from 2,000 to 2,400 passed by voice vote. A related amendment by Graham to require the Department of Defense to liaise with DHS and to inform its riffed and/or otherwise departing military personnel of employment opportunities available within the Border Patrol also passed by a voice vote.

    4. A Kennedy amendment to improve agency coordination on alien smuggling issues passed by voice vote.

    5. The Committee reserved action on a Sessions amendment to increase penalties for evading inspection.

    6. A Sessions amendment to provide an extension of preemption to required construction of day laborer shelters passed by voice vote.

    7. A Grassley amendment to require the DHS Inspector General to review all contracts related to the Secure Border Initiative worth $20 million or more passed by voice vote.

    8. A Leahy amendment on cooperation between the U.S. and other governments on security-related issues was once again deferred.

    9. A Sessions amendment requiring the mandatory detention of "Other Than Mexicans" (OTMs) apprehended at or between the ports of entry passed by a voice vote. The amendment would take effect on Oct. 1, 2006, with an interim period beginning 60 days after enactment during which the DHS Secretary could release an alien after completion of appropriate background checks and with the posting of a bond of at least $5,000. There was lots of debate on the issue, most of it centering on the current shortage of detention space. In addition, the amendment as drafted provides an exception for Cubans. There was some confusion about this carve-out and it is unclear whether Members modified the amendment to eliminate it.

    10. A Cornyn amendment barring convicted *** offenders from sponsoring family members passed by voice vote.

    11. A Grassley amendment to increase the number of enforcement personnel allocated to each state passed by voice vote.

    12. A Grassley amendment to add habitual drunk driving to the list of aggravated felonies was reserved for future action.

    13. A Durbin amendments to (1) strike the section of the Mark that would criminalize unlawful status, and (2) ameliorate the smuggling provisions so as not to criminalize the provision of humanitarian assistance were deferred, with instructions to staffers to work out details of the humanitarian assistance language.

    14. Over Feingold's strong objections, the Committee once again deferred action on a Feingold three-part amendment that would:
    (1) strike the "described in" language throughout Title II of the bill (that would bar benefits to aliens "described in" certain sections of the statute and the criminal code);
    (2) Reinstate the judicial review of naturalization decisions that the Mark would do away with; and
    (3) Assure full access to the federal courts when naturalization proceedings are delayed. Again, the Mark would effectively negate such review.

    15. A Brownback amendment to permanently authorize the J-1 waiver program for foreign doctors working in underserved areas passed by a voice vote.

    16. A Brownback amendment to exempt nurses and physical therapists from the annual employment-based and per-country caps was again deferred.

    17. A Coburn amendment authorizing the DHS to impose expedited removal mandating expedited removal within 100 miles of the southern border and within 14 days of entry passed on a voice vote, as did a 2nd degree amendment excluding LPRs from expedited removal.

    18. The Committee deferred action on a Kennedy amendment that would strike the retroactive application of some of the Mark's provisions.

    19. A Feinstein amendment providing a carve-out for refugees and asylees from the Mark' passport fraud provisions (section 208) passed on a voice vote, with an agreement that her staff would work with Kyl's staff to tighten the language.

    Also, prior to leaving for another meeting, Sen. Sessions listed about 8 amendments to title 2 of the mark that he would like to offer up for a vote during the next meeting of the committee.

  3. #3
    Thanks for the updates, hope something gets done soon.

  4. #4
    lets keep this threat going, nice job...when's the next hearing date? here is still hope that something can be done before the 27th..lets all pray that god helps the needy.

  5. #5
    The next hearings are scheduled for 3/15 and 3/16 (Wed. & Thurs.). As I mentioned in my last post, there is way too much work left on the markup. With only two scheduled hearings left I highly doubt that the bill will be ready by the 3/27 deadline.

    I will be monitoring the hearings live as it happens and if anything significant occurs I will post that first. It usually takes a day or two before I can get the written summary. I will also post that as soon as I get it.

  6. #6
    The Senate hearings were moved to the Capitol building room s-207 so I wasn't able to hear the live webcast. However, reports state that not much progress was made and that the March 27 deadline will be all but impossible to meet. Also, in reaction to the situation Majority Leader Frist has threatened to introduce his enforcement-only bill as soon as today. According to sources, his bill will be comprised of the enforcement provisions in the Specter bill and leaving the guest-worker issue for later.

  7. #7
    Like I mentioned in my earlier post, nothing really got done today and the consensus among the committee was to extend the deadline.

    Another report claims Frist's bill won't contain a guest-worker program OR address the 12+ illegal here already. Not sure what that means.

    Here is the summary of amendments and actions taken today:

    1) Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) expressed worry about the direction of the committee sessions were heading. She made the point that previous guest worker program have not stopped illegal immigration and even may have acted as a magnet. She described an amendment she is drafting for future discussion that would create a limited to agricultural guest worker program. The elements of the amendment are as follows:
    * Illegal agricultural workers could get amnesty (a blue card) with a path to citizenship
    * Eligibility for temporary status would require proof of agriculture work for 100 days per year for 3 years
    * Eligibility for permanent residence status would require proof of work in agriculture for 100 days per year for 5 years
    * Proof of employment would be provided by employer
    * Employers would be required to keep detailed records for 3 years
    * The program would be capped at 300,000 per year
    * The program would sunset after 5 years
    * Blue card holders could bring spouses and children to the United States and they would be given work permits
    * DHS would set an application fee

    2) Sen. Specter (R-PA) remarked that the McCain-Kennedy amnesty was unfair since it would allow illegal aliens to leap frog ahead of those applying for green cards through legal channels.
    * Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) responded arguing that Sen. Specter's "gold card" program created a subclass in American society.

    3) Sen. Leahy (D-VT) offered an amendment to 114 of the Chairman's bill, which authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to help Mexico secure it's southern border. Sen. Leahy's amendment, a revision of one discussed last week, authorizes the State Department to withhold funding under this provision to countries engaged in human rights abuses
    * The amendment was approved by voice vote.

    4) Sen. Durbin (D-IL) again raised an amendment offered last week to delete the provision in the Chairman's bill that criminalizes illegal presence in the U.S. He argued that people should be punished for conduct rather than status.
    * The amendment was again set aside.

    5) Sen. Durbin (D-IL) again raised an amendment offered last week to exempt humanitarian groups from the alien smuggling provisions in the Specter proposal. Senator Kyl (R-AZ) argued forcefully that there is documented evidence of smugglers using the pretext of humanitarian assistance to bring illegal aliens across the border.
    * The amendment was set aside.

    6) Sen. Specter (R-PA) made a statement asking the committee to consider what to do with 11-13 million illegal aliens. He expressed worry that if Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) brings his own bill to the floor of the Senate on March 27, chaos would ensue. Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Biden (D-DE) and Specter (R-PA) then discussed at length how the committee needed more time.

    7) Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) made the point in response to this discussion that what the committee should really be considering is a guest worker program where the "guests" actually are required to return after the guest work period instead of being given a path to citizenship.

    8) Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) expressed his concern that we as a nation cannot accept virtually everyone in the world who wants to come to the U.S. He reminded the committee that the public feels that they were fooled by the 1986 amnesty because the government failed to enforce employer sanctions.

    9) Sen. Coburn (R-OK) suggested splitting up the bill into two parts; border security and the rest.

    10) Sen. Durbin (D-IL) said committee members should pressure Majority Leader Frist to give the committee more time on the Specter proposal.

    11) Sen. Sessions (R-AL) stated that an enforcement only bill would build public trust. He suggested that the Senate should pass an enforcement bill and take the summer to examine other issues.

    12) Sen. Sessions (R-AL) offered an amendment to include alien smuggling to the list of crimes covered by the money laundering statute, allowing seizure of smuggling-related assets.
    * The amendment was approved by voice vote.

    13) Sen. Grassley (R-IA) voiced objections to committee consideration of amendments planned to be offered that address social security-related issues. He insisted that these were matters within the jurisdiction of the Finance Committee he chairs.
    * This issue remains unresolved.

    14) Sen. Sessions (R-AL) offered an amendment reaffirming the right of state and local authorities to enforce immigration laws. Sen. Specter offered a modification to the amendment to limit the right to enforce to "criminal" immigration laws.
    * The amendment and the modification were approved by voice vote with the understanding that Sen. Sessions might attempt to restore the original language.

    15) Sen. Sessions (R-AL) offered an amendment relating to information sharing involving multiple agencies including the social security administration. Sen. Grassley objected to consideration of the amendment in the Judiciary Committee instead of the Finance Committee he chairs.
    * The amendment was set aside.

    16) Sen. Sessions (R-AL) offered an amendment to permit adding information to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. A modification to allow erroneous information to be deleted from the NCIC database was accepted.
    * The amendment was approved by voice vote.

    17) Sen. Sessions (R-AL) offered an amendment requiring DHS to encourage state and local law enforcement agencies to participate in cooperative immigration law enforcement programs. A modification was offered to reaffirm the voluntary nature of state and local participation and to affirm that enforcement of immigration laws under the program would include all immigration laws, not just alien smuggling laws.
    * In the absence of enough Senators to approve amendments, the amendment was set aside.

    18) Sen. Sessions (R-AL) offered an amendment to add detention space for holding illegal aliens.
    * In the absence of enough Senators to approve amendments, the amendment was set aside.

  8. #8
    Here's another summary:

    Senate Judiciary Committee Continues Slow Progress in Markup of Immigration Reform Legislation

    The Senate Judiciary Committee continued its consideration today of draft legislation on comprehensive immigration reform sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter. The Committee officially took up the bill, known as the "Chairman's Mark," on March 2 but has made very slow progress to date.
    The following is a very brief summary of the amendments that were addressed during today's session. See our previous update on last week's markup sessions. We will continue to update you as action on the bill continues.

    1. The Committee passed by a voice vote a compromise amendment by Feingold that would preserve some level of judicial review over naturalization applications.

    2. A Specter 2nd degree amendment to a Sessions amendment on evading inspection passed.

    3. A Leahy amendment on security-related issues passed by voice vote.

    4. A Kennedy amendment to ameliorate the Mark's retroactive provisions was debated and deferred.

    5. A Feinstein amendment to modify the provisions of the Mark relating to border security was deferred for future action.

    6. A Durbin amendment to strike the Mark's criminalization of unlawful status was once again deferred for future consideration. Feinstein attempted to offer a 2nd degree amendment that would provide aliens with a 60-day grace period for visa overstays before they are subject to criminal prosecution under INA 275(a), but Specter would not allow it since Durbin's underlying amendment was set aside.

    7. A Durbin amendment to ameliorate the Mark's smuggling provision so as not to criminalize humanitarian assistance was once again debated and deferred. Kyl spoke in opposition to the amendment. Cornyn had a second degree that Hatch thought was insufficient. Hatch, Schumer and Biden spoke in opposition to Cornyn's 2nd degree. Cornyn was not convincing, but Kyl did some damage.

    8. A Sessions amendment to affirm the inherent authority of state and local law enforcement personnel to enforce federal civil immigration laws during the normal course of carrying out their duties was discussed. Specter offered a 2nd degree that would limit the inherent authority of states and localities to the enforcement of the criminal provisions of the immigration laws. Sessions would only support the 2nd degree if the provisions of the Mark criminalizing unlawful presence remain intact. Thus, if the Durbin amendment to strike those provisions passes, Sessions wants to revisit the Specter 2nd degree. Specter's 2nd degree passed by voice vote.

    9. A Sessions amendment that would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide information to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) related to aliens who may have violated certain immigration laws passed by a voice vote. The broadly worded amendment would encompass visa overstayers, other civil violators, and even members of vulnerable populations such as asylum-seekers who are improperly documented but seeking relief. Leahy and Kennedy voted against the amendment and Leahy spoke in opposition to overloading the NCIC database with individuals who do not belong in it. A Specter 2nd degree amendment that would provide a procedure for requesting removal from the database and modify the group of individuals included in it passed by voice vote.

    10. A Sessions amendment that would require at least one law enforcement agency in each state to enter into a 287(g) cooperative enforcement agreement to enforce immigration laws against alien smugglers was considered. Sessions accepted a Coburn 2nd degree amendment that would clarify: (1) that such agreements would be purely voluntary, and (2) that the 287(g) enforcement authority would not be limited to alien smuggling. There was no quorum to vote on these, however, and they were set aside.
    Part way through the markup, Specter attempted to jump to a debate on the issue of the undocumented population, noting that he has reiterated to Senate Majority Leader Frist that he (Specter) opposes bringing immigration reform to the Senate Floor before the Senate Judiciary Committee had completed its consideration of the Chairman's Mark. Biden and Kennedy voiced their support of Specter's desire to complete work in Committee. Kennedy added, "this issue is NOT going away, like some other issues," and urged deferral of the Title VI discussion until tomorrow (Title VI contains the provisions dealing with the undocumented population). He added that we need to deal with ALL aspects of reform to have real, lasting border security"going forward with any of these components alone will fail.

    Durbin said that, to defeat the House bill (H.R. 4437), the Committee needs to pass a strong bipartisan bill with the support of about 12 members. He feels the Committee should do an extra markup session on a day when there is no other Senate business. "We need to watch the House," noted Durbin, adding: "They have a bill we need to fight at all costs. We need bipartisan support out of this Committee."
    Brownback stated that the Committee has started a process to create broad bipartisan support for good policy, and that this is the most significant legislation of the year. "We have serious problems with immigrant numbers," he said. "We can't live with these and need to change them. McCain/Kennedy would deal with this. How do we get the Mark to deal with these numbers? We need a way NOT to end up here again after 10 years. We can't move too quickly."
    Cornyn described the process as akin to "digging out of a big hole," noting that with enforcement done first, other issues would get simpler. He believes we need to impose circularity---not permanent immigration.
    Coburn said that, like it or not, we have to deal with issue of the undocumented population. He urged the Committee to split the bill in two and do enforcement first, and work to reach consensus on other parts later in the year. "No one in the country trusts us on this issue because we haven't enforced our existing laws," he said.

    Feinstein stated her concerns about the process, and also spoke out against comprehensive immigration reform and in favor of her more limited agricultural pilot program idea. She said she had met with Senator Craig (the sponsor of AgJobs) yesterday to see if they could work out their differences but there has been no resolution yet. She also expressed much frustration with Frist's artificial timeline. She indicated her opposition to the House bill, and said that consensus was needed in the Committee (she believes the Committee has come to some consensus on the enforcement pieces but little else). She urged Specter to go back to Frist and ask for more time.

    Sessions said we need to focus on enforcement now, and then have a national discussion later on the other elements of immigration reform. He believes Congress needs to focus on enforcement to build credibility with the public. "I'm not prepared to repeat 1986," he said. "We should slow down."

    Specter repeatedly voiced his concern about "line-jumping," arguing that the McCain/Kennedy bill would "leap frog" the current undocumented population over individuals who have been waiting in the backlogs. He also said that he'd prefer it if the legislation contained a path to citizenship but, as Chair, was trying to balance both sides.

    In other hurdles to the Judiciary Committee's completion of work on the bill, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Grassley, who is also a member of the Judiciary Committee, argued that the Finance Committee should have jurisdiction over the provisions of the Mark relating to the Social Security Act, adding that the IRS has raised serious concerns about some of these amendments. However, several other senators argued for consideration of these provisions in the Judiciary Committee. It is also possible that Grassley could exercise the Finance Committee's authority by managing those amendments during floor debate.

    The Committee disbanded about noon, due to a number of votes on the Senate Floor and the attendant low probability of maintaining a voting quorum in the Committee.

  9. #9
    Just as I predicted !

  10. #10
    Here's one summary of todays meeting. The final meeting is scheduled for March 27. We'll have to see if Frist introduces his own bill. It looks like the McCain/Kennedy bill will be the basis for the guest/worker program.

    March 16

    Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee finally broached the controversial subject of the undocumented population on day five of the Committee's markup of draft legislation on comprehensive immigration reform, but deferred any votes on the subject until after next week's congressional recess.
    Chairman Specter began the day's proceedings by reiterating that it would be a "colossal mistake" for Senate Majority Leader Frist to bring an immigration bill to the Senate floor that had not been completely vetted by the Senate Judiciary Committee. As background, Senator Frist has threatened to bring his enforcement-only legislation directly to the Senate floor unless the Judiciary Committee produces a bill by March 27. Senator Frist could do this using the seldom employed "Rule 14" procedure that permits him to introduce a bill and bypass the committee process so that it goes directly to the Senate calendar. According to Senate sources, Senator Frist's bill would simply take Chairman Specter's proposal and strip out the guestworker plan and the provisions dealing with the estimated 12 million undocumented aliens present in the U.S.

    Because Senator Frist apparently will not back off of his deadline, Chairman Specter proposed this morning to continue the Committee's work beyond what was to have been the final day of the markup (today). Unfortunately, the Senate is out on recess next week, leaving tomorrow or Monday, March 27, as the only available options for continued work. Most of the Senators present agreed that meeting on March 27 would make sense, with the exception of Senator Cornyn, who disagreed that bringing the Committee's incomplete bill to the floor would be problematic (clearly an attempt on his part to stave off debate in the Committee on what to do with the undocumented population). However, in a clear rebuke to Senator Cornyn, Chairman Specter responded that the Committee would proceed immediately to debate on the controversial issue of a path to citizenship for the undocumented!

    Chairman Specter said that he and Senator Kennedy talked at length yesterday about the issue of the undocumented. He reiterated his concerns about the undocumented workers jumping the line in front of those who have followed the legal channels. He's concerned about 25-year backlogs for 4th preference beneficiaries and other long backlogs. However, he noted his willingness to find a way to put the undocumented on a path to citizenship at the end of the line. Chairman Specter also reiterated that he wants a bill to come out of Committee that can pass the floor and be reconciled with the House bill.

    Senator Kennedy argued that the McCain/Kennedy bill will not lead to line-jumping, explaining that the bill's formula would clear backlogs and deal with the lines themselves. In addition, he noted his willingness to accept a 2nd degree amendment to ensure that legal permanent residence would not be granted to the undocumented population until both the current employment-based and family-based backlogs had been cleared. "What really is the alternative," he asked? "Mass deportations? Criminalization and a permanent subclass?"

    Senator Kennedy continued by talking eloquently about the pure motives of immigrants who have come to this country, both historically and currently, to make a better life for themselves and their families. He said that we should admire the drive of these people. We should not treat them as criminals but should give them an opportunity. We should bring them out of shadows, have them pay a fine, work, and wait their turn. Senator Kennedy also noted that some 60,000 legal permanent residents currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

    Senator Kyl noted that no one on the Committee supports enforcement only, adding that his and Senator Cornyn's proposal would provide a "work opportunity," not a punishment. He said that the Specter "gold card" would be just like a green card but without the right to citizenship. He also opined that people waiting in the family-based backlog don't have the right to be in the U.S. now, so letting undocumented aliens get in line would harm those individuals who have been waiting patiently. At one point, he allowed that it might be OK to give a path to citizenship to high skilled workers but not to low skilled workers.

    Senator Cornyn associated himself with Senator Kyl's remarks. "We can't accept everyone in the world who wants to come here," he said. And while he professed agreement with Senator Kennedy about the beneficial contributions and benevolent motivations of the undocumented population, he couldn't seem to get past the "law breaking" issue. "The American people won't accept a program to deal with the undocumented if we haven't finished the bill's enforcement titles," he argued. He also defended the Cornyn/Kyl "report to deport" proposal, noting that it is neither a ruse nor impractical. He added that the intention of the proposal is not to strand people outside of the country as some have accused.

    Senator Durbin weighed in by stating that the immigration system has been broken for a long while. He recounted stories about important individuals he knows whose parents were undocumented aliens. He stood in support of the McCain/Kennedy proposal, calling it "tough but fair," and reiterated that we should not be criminalizing undocumented status, as both the Chairman's Mark and H.R. 4437 would do.

    Senator Graham noted that many people, including many on the Republican side of the aisle, don't even want to debate this complex issue. For them, rounding these immigrants up and deporting them is the only answer. "Such a proposal is simply not feasible," Senator Graham added. He also noted that half of his family likely would not be able to meet the requirements of the McCain/Kennedy legislation, thereby buttressing the argument that it is no easy give away. "While there are lots of people on talk radio complaining about the undocumented, these folks are out there working," he said. "This is not a 'get out of jail free' card." In addition to those who would deport the undocumented population, there are others who would put them all in jail, he continued, adding that this also would not work. He warned Chairman Specter and others that they shouldn't be trying to avoid criticism on this issue, because they're all going to get it. He agreed that the undocumented population should be put in line behind all those currently waiting in the backlogs but does not believe it is appropriate to force them to leave the country in order to take part in the program, as this would break up families.

    Senator Feinstein argued that the DHS would be incapable of handling such a massive program. She was also concerned with what would happen to those who apply for the program if they are unable to pass the requisite background checks. "Could people with minor misdemeanors get status,?" she asked. She requested a letter from Senator Kennedy's staff on the issue. Senator Feinstein also returned to the issue of DHS's processing capabilities, asking for additional information on the subject before the issue is brought to a vote.

    Senator Specter indicated that he intends to work through the undocumented issue by beginning with the McCain/Kennedy bill and the 2nd degree amendment mentioned above by Senator Kennedy. He also indicated that there is a deal on the table between Senators Cornyn and Kennedy on the temporary worker (future flows) program.

    Senator Feinstein brought up the subject of agricultural workers and wanted to know why they weren't included as part of the guestworker program. Senator Kennedy responded that the reason is because Senator Craig, the chief sponsor of AgJobs, would offer it as an amendment on the floor. Senator Brownback opined that they needed to have staff work out the details of any agricultural program.

    Chairman Specter then noted that staff would be working out various details during next week's recess, confirmed continuation of the markup on March 27th, and gaveled the meeting to a close.

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