Senate committee approves bill expanding citizenship

Some good news out of Washington. Finally.  The Senate judiciary committee approved the Kennedy/McCain guest worker bill! Next step is, of course debate and a vote in front of the full Senate. But this is a huge step forward towards a moderate, sane immigration policy. The key parts of the bill are:

In general, the bill is designed to strengthen enforcement of U.S. borders, regulate the flow into the country of so-called guest workers and determine the legal future of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.

The bill would double the Border Patrol and authorizes a “virtual wall” of unmanned vehicles, cameras and sensors to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border.

It also allows more visas for nurses and agriculture workers, and shelters humanitarian organizations from prosecution if they provide non-emergency assistance to illegal residents.

The most controversial provision would permit illegal aliens currently in the country to apply for citizenship without first having to return home, a process that would take at least six years or more. They would have to pay a fine, learn English, study American civics, demonstrate they had paid their taxes and take their place behind other applicants for citizenship, according to aides to Kennedy.

Of course, there are those on the Senate floor who don’t like to take the sane, moderate path:

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., seeking re-election this fall in his border state, said the bill offered amnesty to illegal immigrants, and sought unsuccessfully to insert tougher provisions. He told fellow committee members that the economy would turn sour some day and Americans workers would want the jobs that now go to illegal immigrants. They will ask, “how could you have let this happen,” he added.

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“Well over 60 percent of Americans in all the polls I see think it’s OK to have temporary workers, but you do not have to make them citizens,” said Kyl.

“We have a fundamental difference between the way you look at them and the way I look at them,” Kennedy observed later.

Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, a potential presidential contender who worked with Kennedy on the issue, told reporters the street demonstrations had made an impact. “All those people who were demonstrating are not here illegally. They are the children and grandchildren” of those who may have been, he said.

The committee met as several thousand demonstrators rallied at the foot of the Capitol. Many were members of the clergy who donned handcuffs and sang “We Shall Overcome,” the unofficial anthem of the civil rights era.

After a weekend of enormous rallies — a crowd of as many as 500,000 demonstrators in Los Angeles — thousands of students walked out of class in California and Texas to protest proposals to crack down on illegal immigrants.

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