Monday, June 4, 2007

Immigration Deal Likely To Pass Senate

Contrary to conventional wisdom, after the week-long Memorial Day recess the Senate immigration deal looks more likely to pass the Senate:

After a week at home with their constituents, the Senate architects of a delicate immigration compromise are increasingly convinced that they will hold together this week to pass an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, with momentum building behind one unifying theme: Today's immigration system is too broken to go unaddressed.

Congress's week-long Memorial Day recess was expected to leave the bill in tatters. But with a week of action set to begin today, the legislation's champions say they believe that the voices of opposition, especially from conservatives, represent a small segment of public opinion [emphasis added].
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that Americans are far more open to the deal than the voices of opposition would indicate. Those polled said they would support a program giving illegal immigrants the right to stay and work in the United States if they pay a fine and meet other requirements, 52 t0 44 percent.

The poll found a partisan divide when people were asked what factors should be weighed the most in admitting immigrants. Democrats tended to say that reuniting immigrant families should be given priority, while Republicans were more likely to say that the skills of the immigrant should be paramount. The survey also found that those who oppose a Senate legalization proposal give a much higher priority to the issue of immigration than those who favor it in some form.

As of Monday morning I could find only 19 Senators that taken a firm public position on the bill. Those Senators support the bill by a margin of 15 to 4.

There will be plenty of arm twisting in the senate this week as the more proposed amendments threaten the deal:

Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), will push to make the Department of Homeland Security consider more of the family-based immigration applications that have already been filed, adding 833,000 immigrants.

Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), has an amendment that would more than double the number of green cards available under the bill for the parents of U.S. citizens.

John Cornyn (R-Tex.), wants to expand the list of crimes making illegal immigrants ineligible for legalization. Cornyn has emphasized infractions such as gang activity and "aggravated felonies."

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), would like to prohibit illegal immigrants who are legalized under the law from obtaining the earned-income tax credit to bolster low-income work.

Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) would allow reunification green cards to be granted to the spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents, not just U.S. citizens.

Robert Menendez and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), would attach a sunset date to the new point system that awards green cards based more on education and skill levels than on family connections.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), will seek to prevent illegal immigrants who earn legal status under the bill from claiming Social Security benefits for the time they worked illegally.

The passage of any of these amendments could cause supporters of the Senate's deal to withdraw support.

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