House Democrats prod Senate to take up Immigration Bill-Congress Daily
House Democrats Wednesday called on their Senate counterparts to not be undermined by naysayers who doubt passing a comprehensive immigration measure is possible this summer, saying that a bill should be brought to the floor as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, key Senate Democrats began circulating a 26-page outline of a border security and immigration reform bill. The draft, obtained by CongressDaily, calls for securing the border before giving illegal immigrants in the country legal status by increasing the number of border and immigration agents and creating a technology system to verify when foreigners leave the country.
The draft, which is being circulated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., along with Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., would increase fines by 300 percent on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, require workers to carry a biometric identification card, and create a federal commission to recommend visa levels. The commission would be able to declare an immigration emergency.
Wednesday’s call for action came mainly from members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus in response to recent developments in the Senate that cast doubt on the prospects of advancing immigration legislation that would give an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country a path to citizenship.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said this week, for example, that an immigration bill would “crash and burn” if it were brought to the floor in the near term because there are not 60 votes to support it. Graham has been the only Senate Republican seriously working with Democrats on crafting a reform measure.
At a news conference Wednesday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force chairman, said Graham has “undermined the whole process” and left Reid hanging.
“Let’s not blame Harry Reid,” Gutierrez said. “He was thrown a curveball this week.”
Gutierrez said Senate Democrats do not yet have 60 votes to pass a Wall Street regulatory bill but they keep bringing it to the floor.
“That’s what we expect from them on comprehensive immigration reform,” Gutierrez said. “It is time for them to make their proposal clear.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said lawmakers will not be intimidated by Graham’s threats to walk away from negotiating other legislation if immigration reform advances.
“I will say to him, ‘So what?’ ” she said. “We will not be intimidated by you.”
Although Reid indicated this week he would advance energy and climate change legislation before immigration reform, Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., said he believes Reid ultimately will provide the leadership necessary to shepherd an immigration bill through the Senate.
Groups that favor an overhaul of immigration laws plan rallies and demonstrations in more than 70 U.S. cities Saturday to demand the Senate pass a reform bill and to protest a new law in Arizona that empowers local police to detain anybody they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally.
House Democrats who spoke at Wednesday’s news conference roundly denounced the new law and said it shows the need for Congress to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.
“The question is, where are we as a federal government and a nation and what are we going to do about it?” said Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.
Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., called for a boycott of Arizona, adding that he personally will not travel through the state.