Monday, May 14, 2007

Senate Debate to Begin

Updated May 17, 2007

Senate: Reid to Push Immigration Bill for Floor Debate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to bring an immigration bill (S. 1348) modeled on last year's Senate immigration bill S. 2611, to the floor next week. "We all recognize [that last year's] bill is imperfect. But it is a place that we are going to start," Reid said, Congressional Quarterly reports.

Senator Reid plans to stay on schedule with two weeks of floor debate on an immigration bill. The move comes as several weeks of negotiations between the Administration and Senators failed to yield legislation.

Senator Reid plans to move forward with a vote on "cloture" (a procedure used to limit the amount of time to debate a bill or other matter) on Monday to proceed with debate of the bill (S. 1348). With 60 votes required for the cloture vote to pass, Senator Reid will need Republican support.

On May 9th, Republican Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mel Martinez (R-FL), and Arlen Specter (R-PA) sent a letter to Senator Reid stating that they would only move forward on legislation that is a part of the bipartisan negotiations.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also said "scrapping" negotiations would lead to "frustration and defeat on both sides"(CQ). The Senators may continue negotiations and could offer substitute legislation during the amendment process if they reach agreement.

The White House proposal, which calls for the creation of a point or "merit"-based system (which uses factors such as educational level to assess prospective immigrants), increased fines for the "legalization" program, and eventual end of family-based visa categories raise concern about the negotiations. "Unfortunately, the White House began the process this year with a far more impractical and partisan proposal," Senator Menendez (D-NJ) has said, according to Congressional Quarterly.

Sections of last year's bill that undermine due process and create a "three-tiered" legalization program raise concerns for immigrants rights advocates. In order fix these provisions it will be necessary for Senators to amend the bill during the debate on the Senate floor. Last year, Senators Lieberman (D-NJ) and Brownback (R-KS) introduced an amendment (SA 4020)to add protections for asylum seekers and improve detention oversight and conditions; however, the amendment failed.

House: Subcommittee Immigration Hearings Continue

The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration will continue to hold hearings this week on the "integration" of US immigrants, the impact of immigration on states and localities, and the future of undocumented students in the United States. For full details including times and locations of the hearings click here. All of the hearings are open to the public.

Children's Hearing on the Social Impact of Raids

On Thursday, May 17th the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and other nongovernmental organizations will hold a "Children's Hearing on the Social Impact of Raids on Families and Communities" from 10 am to 12 pm in Rayburn House Office Building Room 2255.

Guest will include: Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund; Kim Gandy, President, National Organization of Women; Rev. Robert Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches; and Hilary Shelton, Washington DC Bureau Chief, NAACP.