Another Divisive Issue
(All emphases by Always On Watch)
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will try to draft an answer to the House's immigration bill, which passed the House with no guest-worker provision. Chairman Arlen Specter may face controversy with his H-2C visa for hotel and restaurant workers as well as for other occupations not easily filled by U.S. workers.
From a March 2, 2006 Washington Post article entitled "Immigration Bills May Split Republicans: Bipartisan Call for Guest Worker Program at Odds With Push to Secure Borders":
"The Senate will begin work today on legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration laws and plug its porous borders, but a bipartisan push to create a new guest worker program has put Senate Republicans on a collision course with their counterparts in the House.Estimates place the number of illegal immigrants within our borders at 11 million. Multiple factors have gotten us to this point. Is the problem fixable?
"The immigration question -- one of the volatile issues in this election year -- has split Republicans as no other issue before Congress. Vociferous opponents of illegal immigration are at odds with business interests and their allies, including President Bush, who are keen on establishing new, legal avenues to bolster the labor force.
"Many Republicans, especially those from the West, have said passage of legislation to enforce border security is vital to their reelection, and do not want this merged with other measures that would open up work options for immigrants.
"On the other side, supporters yesterday talked up efforts to open new opportunities for migrant workers. 'I smell victory in the air,' thundered Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), at a rally of immigrant hotel workers in Union Station....
"'This is going to be very, very difficult,' said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who supports a guest worker program and says immigration is one of the top two or three topics roiling the country. 'You've got a lot of emotions on both sides.'
"'The gap is huge,' agreed Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who has been leading the charge for a bill that deals only with border security. 'I don't think you can square this circle.'...
"But to Tancredo and his allies, who are facing mounting constituent anger over what they see as a border crisis, such threats ring hollow. Business groups, organized labor and religious organizations may have united to back a broad guest worker program, but opponents say the interest groups are no match for the anger of ordinary voters. Even Specter conceded yesterday that the term 'amnesty' has become a political pejorative that will be difficult to escape.
"'This issue has now achieved a level of preeminence in the minds of America that it will be a factor in the election -- it has to be,' Tancredo said. 'The political consequences of failure will be dire.'"