Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A victory of sorts but still more concerns

In their rush to ram enforcement-only legislation through Congress before the recess, House Representatives re-passed three bills on issues that they already approved in HR 4437 nearly nine months ago (yes, you heard right). On Monday they were hoping to add these bills on to a Senate appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security. But fortunately the Senate stood up to them and said "no".

Was this the result of your phone calls and e-mails asking Senators to step up for real reform and block this maneuver? Let's hope so.

It might also be what happens when Republican House Representatives spend their summer vilifying the Senate for its vision of immigration reform. Even though Republican Senators were key authors of the Senate bill, Republicans in the House have labeled it a Democratic bill. Maybe the authors weren't too happy about this... Take for example one of the Senate bill's original authors, Arlen Specter. He heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight on immigration, and the Los Angeles Times reports that he was key to blocking the House attempts to push a variety of immigration measures onto the Homeland Security spending bill. Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire told the LA Times that "Sen. Specter has been very specific that he wants to do a comprehensive bill [on immigration]"

The House and Senate negotiators did agree on spending a whopping $34.8 billion on the Department of Homeland Security in 2007 (H.R. 5441) and $21.3 billion of this will go towards border protection, immigration enforcement, and related activities. (On a related note: check out the Arizona Daily Star's series of acrticles "Sealing our Border: Why it Won't Work").

We're not out of the woods yet, however. Senators are now saying that they'll be able to work out a deal in a "lame duck" session - the time between lawmakers' return to Washington after November's elections and the start of the next Congress in January. Senator Gregg said that a comprehensive overhaul "is more doable in the lame duck session than it is" now because compromise is more likely after the elections. This is both promising and scary...

The New American Opportunity Campaign also points out three looming issues:

1. Senate Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) made a procedural move (filed for cloture) that ties the Secure Fence Act and the military tribunals bill together. The SENATE VOTE on the Secure Fence Act could take place this Thursday, September 28th. (See AILA's summary of the Secure Fence Act.)

2. Speaker Hastert (R-IL) is insisting that the Community Protection Act (the "Gang Bill") be attached to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill. It is unclear at this point if the Senate will go along with this proposal.

3. Funding for border security is still included in the DHS appropriations conference report.


The New American Opportunity Campaign suggests that you can call your Senators (tel: 202.224.3121) and

-- Ask your Senators to vote NO on the Secure Fence Act, H.R. 6061.

-- Tell your Senators that the enforcement-only approach taken by the House of Representatives will only make the immigration situation worse. Ask them to support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform.

-- Tell your Senators that enforcement-only provisions should not be attached to unrelated bills, such as spending bills or the Defense Department Authorization.