Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bush's speech and the Fight over Amendments

President Bush seems to done what few others have done in the present immigration debate: make both sides of the issue agree on something. Trouble is that they agree that Bush's proposals are unworkable, unwise and poorly-staged PR...although for different reasons.

Mark Krikorian of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies suggested it was "Harry Houdini"-style politics with a lot of smoke and mirrors. Immigrant rights advocates, like AFSC, are concerned about the 'militarization' of the border. Advocates point out that the National Guard has been stationed at the border before and actually resulted in the death of a young Mexican man not long ago. Other advocates oppose the guest worker program and the tiered system for earned legalization.

Others see the President's speech as solidfying votes in the Senate where the fight right now is over amendments to the Hagel-Martinez compromise.

First at bat on Tuesday was Senator Johnny Isakson from the Great (Now Anti-Immigrant) State of Georgia. His amendment sought to prohibit any changes to immigration law UNTIL the border with Mexico is secured. According to the Washington Post, Isakson said "Listen, this country put a man on the moon in nine years. This country responded to the terrorist attacks on 9-11 within three weeks. This country can do anything it sets its mind to." Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, called it a "killer amendment" and others, like Ted Kennedy argued that a comprehensive approach is needed.

The Isakson amendment failed with the opposition of 36 Democrats, 18 Republicans and one independent. The Washington Post pointed out that the entire senior GOP leadership was among the supporters [for the Isakson amendement], including Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who heads the GOP campaign committee.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrate from North Dakota tried to get an amendment approved that would have excluded foreigners and recent illegal immigrants from a new guest worker program that could provide jobs for millions over the next decade. The amendment was sunk by 69 against and 28 for his amendment.

The Senate approved two amendments: one by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., to limit the guest worker program to 200,000 individuals a year, the other by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to hire 1,000 more Border Patrol agents and purchase new helicopters and boats.

ACTION STEPS: Check out the previous post about the Detention Watch Network's National Call-In Day. You can still call in and express your opposition to the detention provisions.

Also consider calling Bill Frist (202-224-3344) and Elizabeth Dole (202-224-6342) to express your disappointment in them for voting for the Isakson amendment.