Mar 3 2006
Senate Deeply Divided Over Immigration Issues
The Senate began its debate on recently proposed overhauls of immigration laws yesterday and, from the start, senators were deeply divided on the core issues.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voiced widely disparate views on issues such as the guest worker program, enforcement of border security management of the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), the lead representative on the committee stated that he saw “virtually no agreement on anything. Specter's bill, which provides for heavy enforcement of the borders is considered controversial on both sides of the spectrum. In Specter’s proposal, workers would be allowed to come to the U.S. for up to six years, but would not be able to apply for citizenship.
A competing bill, introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) would provide for a guest worker program that, alternatively, would allow such workers to eventually gain citizenship. In addition the McCain-Kennedy bill would create a path by which the 11 million undocumented workers currently in the U.S. could obtain citizenship as long as they met particular requirements and paid all fines and back taxes.
"The choice is to legalize them or leave them in the shadows," said Kennedy of the illegal immigrants. Without a possibility of citizenship, Kennedy said, there would be no incentive for illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows. "Only legalizing them will work,” said Kennedy.
But Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) disagreed with Kennedy’s theory. “If we go forward with a guest worker program, we’ll have a much worse problem,” said Grassley. Such a program, according to Grassley, would only provide incentive for more undocumented immigrants to enter the U.S. and add to the burden of already struggling government agencies and programs.
Diane Feinstein (D-CA) proposed a more simple and modified version of the guest worker program, which would provide 300,000 jobs a year for three years for the agriculture industry. However, many other Senators voiced their opinion that even a limited program would be unwanted and, instead, stated that they were interested in first securing the nation’s borders.
Clearly, this debate will be heated and long-lasting. Hopefully, the citizens of this nation will share their opinions with their Senators so that the national representatives can truly represent the desires of their populace. And hopefully, the Senate will find a reasonable and supportive compromise to this essential issue.