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Mar. 28 2010 - 10:45 pm | 3,306 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Immigration reform gets wind in its sails from Sens. Schumer, Graham

Immigration reform appears to have gained momentum, if only marginally. Last week Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, was implicitly threatening to sink immigration reform if health care passed.

Today on “Meet the Press” he was already sounding more conciliatory. In an appearance with Democrat Charles Schumer, Graham said he would continue to work on a bipartisan plan to reform the nation’s immigration system. He called it a “tough heavy lift” and that the Democrats’ deal-cutting on health care wouldn’t help with the process of hammering out consensus on an immigration bill.

Sen. Graham also made the point that Democrats had played a major role in immigration reform being put on the back burner. The White House “has done almost nothing on immigration,” he said. And Graham noted that the last time it came up in the U.S. Senate 16 Democrats voted against immigration reform. The South Carolinian quipped that if President Obama invited moderate Democrats to the White House for a meeting on immigration most of them would “jump out the window.”

In other words, Sen. Graham and perhaps another GOP cross-over vote don’t necessarily make immigration reform a done deal.

But the bottom line– Graham’s still in. “I will continue working with Chuck on immigration,” he said.

Schumer knows he can’t do it with just Graham’s support.

He wants more Republican senators to sign on. This is what Schumer said on the program:

But I would plead with him, if we can get that second Republican, we have business and labor ready to sign on, we have all the religious community – not just the liberals but the evangelicals – we even have Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly saying positive things about our proposal. I would urge that we try to get this done because it’s so important for America.

“We’re real close,” Sen. Schumer said, implying there was another Republican Senator with interest in the plan. Of course, the immigration plan Schumer and Graham are working on could easily dissolve and disappear into the Washington, D.C. political weeds in the months ahead.

It’s thought that there is room for immigration reform to get legislative attention between now and July but that at that point in the summer, with mid-terms looming, the possibilities would disappear.

One potential stumbling block is the proposed national worker ID card, which would include biometric identity information like fingerprints. This card would serve to ensure employers only hire authorized workers, but it will prove a tough pill to swallow for any libertarian minded people, on both the right and left.

But the blueprint of Graham and Schumer’s immigration plan does seem to have broad support for now, including that of immigrant advocates in Washington, D.C. In a press release the Reform Immigration For America group said they would continue to work with Sens. Graham and Schumer:

Despite last week’s comments declaring immigration reform dead, Senator Graham explicitly pledged to continue working with Senator Schumer on a comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system. (We are) supportive of moving this process forward and will continue to work with both Senators as they refine the details of their proposal.

A side note: Sen. Schumer was very emphatic in reminding the audience that  immigrants who entered the country illegally would not be receiving health care under the new legislation just passed. He also used tough words against immigrants who enter the country illegally, 15,000 a day according to Schumer. It’s clear that Schumer is hoping that talking tough on immigration, especially in connection with the health care reform, will free Democrats up to be more forceful in re-shaping the immigration system.


1 Total Comment
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  1. collapse expand

    Here’s a thought:

    Its already illegal to enter this country without documentation. Enforce the existing laws!

    And get serious about border security. The fence is a start, but just a start.

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    Readers, thanks for your eyeball time, please send tips, corrections, complaints, rants, etc. My email is ballve [at] gmail.com. I was born in Buenos Aires and raised there and in Atlanta, Mexico City and Caracas. I've written and reported on Latin America for almost a dozen years. I started out as an Associated Press reporter and editor in the agency’s Brazil and Caribbean bureaus. In 2007 I co-founded El Sol de San Telmo, a community newspaper in Buenos Aires. I am now a contributing editor for the nonprofit New America Media, Americas correspondent for Amsterdam-based Research World magazine (publication of the international association of market and public opinion researchers), and a 2010-2011 Lemann Fellow at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

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      Since 2002 I have been a contributing editor at New America Media, where I write about Latin America and the politics of immigration in the United States.

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