Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Deep Roots" and other surprises

Wonders never cease on Capitol Hill!

Until recently hard-nosed enforcement-only senators sounded ready to call Immigration to pick up immigrant street protesters. Senator Trent Lott suggested as much when quoted in the New York Times "We had them all in a bunch, you know what I mean? I want to be sensitive to human concerns, why they're here and how they're here. But when they act out like that, they lose me." [sort of like when Martin Luther King Jr. "acted out" with all those folks in the March on Washington?].

Now this week Senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), who have been pushing for more enforcement, put forward a proposal for limited legalization for some undocumented immigrants: for those who had married, had children or put down "deep roots" in the United States. The L.A. Times quoted Kyl saying "If you look at family, if you look at roots, perhaps it's a better way of distinguishing [among undocumented immigrants]. It's an objective criteria based on a value that most people can agree on". It's not clear what constitutes "deep roots" and what myriad ways they have devised to make folks ineligible to benefit from the proposal.

Denying that the May 1st rallies had any impact on the debate, Bill Frist is sounding optimistic and hopes to have something passed by the end of May. Just recently he was dismissing Senator Reid's proposal to consider 20 amendments.

Meanwhile Harry Reid, who was hopeful, is sounding not so much so. He's still trying to work out an agreement in advance of a conference committee that would have to reconcile the House bill (HR 4437) and whatever the Senate passes. "The Republicans have basically stiffed us on all conferences," Reid said in the L.A. Times, referring to GOP tactics over the last 5 1/2 years. "So what I need to have is an agreement on amendments and who is going to be on the conference."

Most observers continue to see the politics around this bill as being influenced by the up-coming November elections and the Presidential election in 2008 (which many think Frist is vying for). Both parties are most concerned about how the end result of this debate will make them look to the public.

Stay tuned...more surprises to come?