The Gang Reaches Across the Aisle as Senate Immigration Debate Kicks Off

As they try to sell the bill to skeptics, the Senate's immigration supporters are pitching it as a return to bipartisanship and regular order.

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Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy listens as Senator Chuck Grassley speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee's markup for the immigration reform bill on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., on May 9, 2013.

Near the end of the first day of Senate debate on a sweeping bill to overhaul U.S. immigration laws, one of the measure’s top immigration supporters hugged one of its most vocal foes.

Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the committee charged with debating and amending the bill, had been sparring for much of the day with Jeff Sessions, a Republican who opposes comprehensive reform. Sessions had been deriding the bill as profligate and porous, slamming it as “immediate amnesty” that would unseat American workers. But during a break in the slugfest, Leahy collared his conservative colleague and the two shared a private laugh.

The moment showcased a strategy. As they try to sell the bill to skeptics, immigration supporters are pitching the bill as a return to bipartisanship and regular order. In an attempt to parry criticism that immigration might be jammed through the Judiciary Committee in a hasty or partisan fashion, Democrats repeatedly reached across the aisle on the first of many long days that will be devoted this month to amending the 867-page bill.

(MORE: Immigration Bill Faces First Major Test)

The committee is composed of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans, including two GOP members of the so-called Gang of Eight that crafted the package. With a clear majority, they could have mowed down each of the nearly 200 amendments Republicans offered, many of which would strike at the heart of the bill. Instead they adopted eight Republican amendments, mostly to stiffen border security. Six of those were offered by ostensible opponents of the bill, including one amendment by ranking member Charles Grassley of Iowa that would expand security across the entire southern border. Another Grassley amendment accepted by Democrats would require annual audits of the pool of money used to implement the law.

The majority of the markup was, as Leahy had promised, “productive and transparent.” The text of the legislation was posted online two weeks ago. Amendments have been available since the filing deadline Tuesday, and as the bill changed shape the results were updated on the committee’s website. “This is as open and democratic a process as anybody could ask for,” said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, a member of the Gang of Eight.

This being the Senate, it was anything but perfect. The members, arrayed around a horseshoe of tables in a hearing room jammed with immigration advocates wearing matching T-shirts, swapped sharp retorts from the opening statements. There was plenty of clock-killing grandstanding; the day had barely begun when Leahy snapped at Grassley for droning on too long. It took 90 minutes for the committee to reach a vote on the first amendment, an innocuous revision of typos and technical glitches in the bill. Four Republicans voted no.

(MORE: Four Additional Hurdles for Immigration Reform)

At one point, Sessions was forced to run damage control for Republican Gang of Eight member Lindsey Graham after the South Carolinian complained that “we can’t have everybody who lives in a hellhole coming to America.” By that point, senators had long since begun thumbing their smartphones and slipping out of the room for stretches, leaving aides as voting proxies. Over the course of the day a few senators, their brains fried by hours of technical jargon, accidentally voted the wrong way before catching their mistakes.

Few of the more than 300 amendments the Judiciary Committee will consider over the next several weeks hold much peril for the bill. With a solid majority, the measure’s supporters are assured of committee victory. Only one vote on the 18-member panel appears to be up for grabs: that of Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, who has praised the bill’s authors but offered 24 amendments to reshape the legislation. For the Gang of the Eight, the challenge will be to stay united, and to preserve the core tenets of the bill while convincing teetering colleagues that it’s good enough to live with.

To the critics on the committee, they had a clear message. “Be constructive,” implored Schumer. “We are open to changes…but don’t make an effort to kill a bill that is the best hope for immigration reform, I believe, that we’ve had in this country.” It was also, Schumer added, the best hope “to break the bipartisan gridlock that has strangled the Senate, the Congress and the country.”

Which was probably why Leahy was buddying up with Sessions, who “has been very up front about his desire to kill the bill,” says Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group. The Vermont Democrat, a head or two taller than the Alabaman, smiled as he wrapped a big arm around his opponent’s shoulder. It was a hug now, but it could easily turn into a headlock before the fight is over.

MORE: Immigration Reform’s First Big Test: The Boston Bombing

18 comments
kerthialfad
kerthialfad

Would this Ariel Castro guy be given amnesty?

DaveFrancis
DaveFrancis

I can never understand why Americans can see through much of these massive profile bills, as illegal immigration. Just avidly peer around the mark-up politicians. We have sleazy Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) slouching at the elongated table, using his Judiciary committee empowerment to undermine every reasonable amendment that keeps our country safer from foreign invaders. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AR), a strong supporter of American rights who tried to no avail in revising the real fence that was condemned by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, after it remarkably passed into law in 2006. It eventually was underfunded and slipped out of existence, so that lady holds the majority of the blame for the millions of foreigners who have swept over the fence since that time. Since 1986 we have had a serious problem aggravated by hard indoctrinated Liberals who see huge benefits in giving more illegal aliens a Pathway to Citizenship, hence a majority vote from new citizens and thereby overwhelming the Senate and house with their socialist agenda. To most of the lawmakers sitting around the table, they believe the border is more secure than ever (even though the Chris Crane of the U.S. Border Patrol Union thinks otherwise, owing to the growing rise in entries), and the fallacy pushed by Liberal-Democratic Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that there is no basis to employ more enforcement before the legalization is passed. What registered with me was that 4 Republicans, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Orrin Hatch joined all the Democrats in supporting Senate bill 477 from the opening sequence of voting on amendments.

A one-time only law that would be a massive successful enforcement tool to me and millions of other thinking people is a biometric ID card? As I access its practical use it would attain some sense of employment safety? Without it no job would be available and employers who hire people, without verification would have no defense. It is only in America that an employer can slip out of handcuffs and walk away free from any prosecution. In Italy as an example—employing an illegal immigrant means loss of business license, harsh financial penalties and jail time. A mandatory ID card would be highly beneficial, because no irredeemable business owner could slip through the crack, which tells me there is a conspiracy within Washington to bow down to corporate and business welfare. In the past I would have rejected any thought of a national ID card, but today with live in very dangerous world of voter fraud, credit card theft and U.S. citizens/legal residents losing jobs to unauthorized workers.

IF! And I say if a national ID card was issued, the fence we have now at the border, would be sufficient. Perhaps even less agents would be required at the border. The E-Verify electronic detection program could be eliminated as a requirement of getting a job and addition the ID card could be used for voting. There are so many advantages to having a national Identification card, that could be accepted at banks, verification in getting a drivers license, car registration and near enough possible to counterfeit. Starting from its supposedly 2 billion dollar issue to every citizen by birth or naturalization, its original cost would be savings in the trillions of dollars in expectations. All these political fools are all myopic, and would rather spend money on millions of illegal aliens and their families, then a small card size document that would display a picture, thumb-print and/or retinal scan.

Through C-span cable I listened to President Obama speech in Mexico, which was an extreme assault on American values. An unashamed outrage to our exclusive traditions and inheritance, he presented to immigrants (not addressing any difference in Mexicans who came to our lands through legal channels or the other who adamantly violated our laws) as “the engine of our economy,” never offering any merit to our nations dawning main beliefs, guarantying justice and self-determination and liberty. As an alternative, his choice was to eulogize those who slipped across our borders and violating our laws. I see little difference in the political assurances of sealing the border as in the Immigration Reform & Control Act twenty seven years ago to what has been proposed in 2013. The next hordes of people, ready to suffer the extreme heat or numbing cold when a highly visible double fence, would be a stark reality of staying in Mexico. For a person or several families trying to climb one fence has significant risks, but then faced with a second chain link fence adorned with rolls of razor wire would be a major deterrent? That also their presence had been detected between the two barriers would deter the most physically fit individual. Even while pondering the second fence, the U.S. Border Patrol would already been in pursuit and would have nowhere to go in evading capture. But as it was said the political corrupt tribunals that run our lives made up of mostly ex-attorneys and lawmakers for-life attitudes have discarded the revitalization of the 700 mile Secure Fence Act. While American workers strive to make a decent living to feed our families, these morons jeopardized our nation, by courting the wealthy lobbyists who retard our future. THATS WHY NOTHING GETS DONE IN WASHINGTON, WHILE BOTH THE SENATE AND HOUSE CLASH OVER POLICIES THAT MAKE SENSE. 

 

drudown
drudown

@DaveFrancis

Here is a three step, "liberal" solution:

(1) create a fortified border that is impregnable [i.e., it will create jobs and prevent terrorists from waltzing in to our Nation as easily as 1 in 10 people living in Los Angeles] and monitor 24/7 with drones; (2) actual enforcement of existing laws [e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/us/advocates-push-obama-to-halt-aggressive-deportation-efforts.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 ]; and (3) create new "federal redevelopment zones" near major border towns for new manufacturing/industrial/distribution facilities for increased efficiency in moving people and goods across the border. 

drudown
drudown

Just this: instead of rehashing Benghazi, the GOP should delineate how it intends on PAYING for the proposed immigration “reform” and heightened border defense. As a tax-paying American, I find McCain and Graham’s position to represent EVERYTHING that is wrong with Congress including, but not limited to the fact they will not advance policies that actually benefit the People. Here, the abstract notion our ELECTED GOP officials have to give some sort of oath or pledge to a lobbyist- Grover Norquist- is simply absurd. How, pray tell, is that not an egregious conflict of interest? How can any REPRESENTATIVE of the PEOPLE credibly contend that they are swearing loyalty to K Street and, inexplicably, purport to “recapture” loyalty by mere “messaging”. Either a benefit to the People is there, or it is not there.

Sorry, I have yet to hear a single lucid, cogent argument as to WHY the People of the United States should “legalize” tens of millions of foreign nationals that are unapologetically draining our Educational, Penal, Judicial and Health Care resources. As such, if the GOP wants to reform the immigration system, it has to RAISE the money to PAY for their lower priced labor force it seeks to EXPLOIT. But merely “passing the buck” to the People through some “amnesty” program materially exacerbates our budgetary woes is flat out irresponsible, particularly when juxtaposed against the surging crime and lawlessness in Mexico.

What, you don’t think giving “amnesty” to foreign nationals that came here illegally is going to induce more to leave whatever god-forsaken-place to come here? That’s how stupid the GOP thinks we all are.

And sadly, my fellow liberals are being manipulated into supporting something indefensible under the means proposed. It is eerily reminiscent of how the People were coerced into the Iraq war, i.e., “if we don’t rush into action now, __________ will happen.” Last time I checked, we are out $4 trillion and counting. This “reform” will cost us even more.

Worse still, it is Unconstitutional on its face. Legislation cannot treat similarly situated persons differently under the law. Nobody can credibly contend that this de facto “amnesty” doesn’t do just that. Why do our leaders in Congress think they have a self-perceived authority to deny the People privacy rights not expressly enumerated in the Constitution but can magically bestow the Privileges and Immunities of our very citizenship to foreign nationals that violated laws to get here?

(sigh.)

Unbelievable.

“Thy love afar is spite at home.” - Emerson

DaveFrancis
DaveFrancis

California, the real “Nanny” state:

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services reported that over $54 million in welfare benefits were issued to undocumented immigrant parents in March, according to figures released by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich's office. This follows the recent University of Southern California study indicating that 1-in-10 Los Angeles County residents is an undocumented immigrants. The $54 million includes over $19 million in CalWORKs (welfare) payments and nearly $35 million in food stamps, representing 20% of all CalWORKs and food stamp issuances in the county. At that rate, the projected annual cost for 2013 is approximately $650 million, an increase of $25 million compared with last year. These numbers will continue to rise as, according to the USC study, one in five children in Los Angeles County has at least one parent who is in the country illegally.“With the $550 million for public safety and nearly $500 million for healthcare, the total cost for illegal immigrants to county taxpayers exceeds $1.6 billion dollars a year,” said Antonovich.  “These costs do not even include the hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually for education.” Nearly half of the county's illegal immigrants lack a high school diploma, and 60 percent do not speak English well, according to the USC study. POLITICIANS NEED TO ABSORB THESE NUMBERS AND CHANGE, ALTER ADD AN ANNOTATION TO THE BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP ACT. LIBERALS HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF THIS! 4TH AMENDMENT MISINTERPRETATION AND ONLY ALLOW THE CHILDREN OF AMERICAN CITIZENS THIS RIGHT. THIS IS JUST ONE STATE HOW MUCH IS BEING EXTRACTED FROM YOUR TAXES BECAUSE THE LEFT HAS INTERPRETED THIS LAW WRONG, MEANT ONLY FOR THE CHILDREN OF SLAVES, BUT REINVENTED FOR THE LIBERAL IDEOLOGY? 

In adding it all up the business and corporate welfare is so widespread, and annually taxpayers have been the payee for the business community. Any business owner that incorrigibly uses cheap labor for gain and massive profit, whether its the entertainment industry, services, health care, farms and agriculture, meat and poultry packing, sweat house for the garment industry and a whole wide spectrum are guilty for stealing jobs from poor Americans, white, black, Hispanic, Latin Asian- the less educated citizens and even legal immigrants. The business world send out their lobbying Piranha to add amendments to decent laws, and all this happens behind closed doors “buying and selling” auctions to thwart guiding principles, such as travesty of this 2013 immigration Reform bill S.477)Until money and favors are removed from campaigns, the taxpayer will never be free from corruption and abuse in Congress?At a time when so many Americans are unemployed, underemployed, out of the labor force, and 47 million Americans are on food stamps because of the disastrous economic policies pursued by the current administration, should we continue to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on illegal aliens who should re-train the obligations of their own governments?

There are approximately 400 waivers, exemptions and hidden advantages for illegal immigrants, but a financial death warrant for taxpayers. The Heritage Foundation has released its latest report of the amnesty provisions of the Gang of Eight's immigration bill. Top analyst Robert Rector has determined that if the 11 million illegal migrants/ immigrants living in the United States receive amnesty, it will have a net cost to taxpayers of $6.3 Trillion! But that number is well under estimates. Members of Congress should be contacted at toll-free -- 1-888-978-3065 -- and tell them about the massive outlay and urge them to oppose amnesty. Now, right now each Senator needs to hear from millions of taxpayers who say NO to promote that "cheap" labor with $6.3 trillion price tag. We hope citizens are making sure that their Senators' or come to that every politician gets large numbers of angry voices and amplify the amount of phones are zinging in the ear of uncaring politicians. You can also free faxes at numbersusacom, judicialwatchorg, americanpatrolcom congestion their core switchboard in Washington, with messages to pressure from THE PEOPLE and not the corporate welfare special favors division of this administration. 

opoljanka
opoljanka

I wonder how can you personally  build this land into something worthy. How much as person can you change anything in your surrounding. Can you build a better country on your own? Isn't a demagogue Aren't you a small politician " in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, prejudices, and ignorance of the less-educated people of a population in order to gain power and promote political motives"

Massachusettsres123
Massachusettsres123 like.author.displayName 1 Like

My wife is illegal, we have been married 7 years, she has been here for 11 years. We have about 100 to 200 illegal acquaintances and some friends who are illegal.

I will tell you exactly how many have free health care on Mass health, nearly free rent, free child care, drive luxury vehicles >2010, don't pay state or federal taxes and have many land and building holdings in Brazil, Central America, Mexico. Two illegals I know actually know what a TIN is. (Tax ID number ) One says he pays taxes and the others brag that they do not.

They pay $1,000 in fines for driving unlicensed; if I drive unlicensed I pay $1,200 in fee and increased insurance premiums over 6 years. The people who insure their cars get $1,000 income for each friend they insure. Shows you how secure communities works because some of thee people are violent criminals in Brazil. I should get rid of my driver's license!

All have thier clients personal checks cashed in check cashing places in Marlborough, Framingham, Milford and use the Western Union to wire it to Brazil. Weekly income for a housekeeps is 4 houses daily $90 to 120 each time 5 to 6 days a week. No taxes taken out. I should quit my high tech job!

Non deposit more than $4,000in a bank here because it is searchable my the DOR and Masshealth. I've been to Brazil 7 times and have seen thier properties there.

One mechanic illegal immigrant using a false SSN ownes a house in my town that was paid for through the low income housing authority.He is alomost finished a very large villa in Guatemala.

What I read about immigration reform is so opposite than my reality.

Our immigration lawyer and another Boston lawer who was an immigration judge said, allow your wife to drive illegally and if she hurts someone the other immigration laws kick in and she will be legal in 8 months. Just call an attorney and ask them about this, 100% will tell you other laws get envoked when you are in the court system and awaiting deportation with much better chances to become legal.

I wish my father who fought in WWII and immigrated here, was made legal becuase he went to war for the country had a say in all of this.

wgberger
wgberger

"Comprehensive reform" is a euphemism for  overpopulating the country with foreigners who prefer to leach off the accomplishments of Americans rather than building their own lands into something worthy.

Millions of our citizens are unemployed. There is no reason to import or allow to remain here aliens from other lands.

The Gang of Eight should register as lobbyists for Mexico, Philippines etc. and be honest about their loyalties.

BobJan
BobJan like.author.displayName 1 Like

"Over the course of the day a few senators, their brains fried by hours of technical jargon, accidentally voted the wrong way before catching their mistakes". This proves we have not only the "most expensive Congress money can buy" but the "dumbest Congress money can buy". How can you "accidentally vote" wrong? Is it because you're ignorant as to what's happening, or you're not paying attention, or you have a reading comprehension problem, or is it that you're in a "job" that requires someone with common sense and wisdom and not a worthless law degree.

jmac
jmac

I love the "secret" meetings going on.  Don't let the base know what you're actually saying; don't let the base know you're having a beer with someone; be tough in front of those cameras so the Limbaugh won't go haywire and be sure and tweak any word that sounds like amnesty.  

BorisIII
BorisIII

Either way its a win win for the Democrats.  Better immigration reform gets approved then the Democrats win.  Bill fails then hardly any Latinos will vote for Republicans in next election.

seizeabe
seizeabe like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

Congress must show a little compassion .....

Most American citizens of today were immigrants some time.

Most got their citizenship without the decades of heartburn, waiting, discrimination and humiliation that financial ruin that today's immigrants go through.

Today, even after waiting for over 10 years, immigration processes are unable to give any indication or hope for legal immigrants, families, spouses and their children a reasonable shot at a stable life as a PR or of citizenship.

Are congressmen unable to realize the emotional, employment, financial, social and realtime life hardships that legal immigrants are undergoing.

The congress must consider the torture of living a life of uncertainty and living off suitcases that legal immigrant professionals, individuals, families and children face, in waiting for 10, 15, and may be 20 years to get a green-card.

Would that bitter taste be the memories that America would want the perfectly legal and law abiding, immigrants in waiting, carry for their entire life?

Congress must pass the immigration bill, with a provision that states that once individuals have been issued an I-485 adjustment-of-status, should not have to wait beyond a total of 5 years, from original acceptance to America. So that, an individual who has been accepted through an I-485, would be able to obtain a green-card within 5 years, and citizenship in 5 years thereafter. Therefore, it is only fair that a legal immigrant could become a positive, patriotic and an America loving citizen at most in a total of 10 years.

Within 10 years, the immigration verification process must research the background of the individuals, and decide once and for all, whether the individuals could remain in USA or would have to return to the country of origin. The decision would bring happiness to those who get the green-card in 5 years, and also to those don't, because they get a firm response, and could return and go ahead with heir lives.

Congress must act, and restore normalcy to immigrant families.

Massachusettsres123
Massachusettsres123

@seizeabe

My wife is illegal, we have been married 7 years, she has been here for 11 years. We have about 100 to 200 illegal acquaintances and some friends who are illegal.

I will tell you exactly how many have free health care on Mass health, nearly free rent, free child care, drive luxury vehicles >2010, don't pay state or federal taxes and have many land and building holdings in Brazil, Central America, Mexico. Two illegals I know actually know what a TIN is. (Tax ID number ) One says he pays taxes and the others brag that they do not.

They pay $1,000 in fines for driving unlicensed; if I drive unlicensed I pay $1,200 in fee and increased insurance premiums over 6 years. The people who insure their cars get $1,000 income for each friend they insure. Shows you how secure communities works because some of thee people are violent criminals in Brazil. I should get rid of my driver's license!

All have thier clients personal checks cashed in check cashing places in Marlborough, Framingham, Milford and use the Western Union to wire it to Brazil. Weekly income for a housekeeps is 4 houses daily $90 to 120 each time 5 to 6 days a week. No taxes taken out. I should quit my high tech job!

Non deposit more than $4,000in a bank here because it is searchable my the DOR and Masshealth. I've been to Brazil 7 times and have seen thier properties there.

One mechanic illegal immigrant using a false SSN ownes a house in my town that was paid for through the low income housing authority.He is alomost finished a very large villa in Guatemala.

What I read about immigration reform is so opposite than my reality.

Our immigration lawyer and another Boston lawer who was an immigration judge said, allow your wife to drive illegally and if she hurts someone the other immigration laws kick in and she will be legal in 8 months. Just call an attorney and ask them about this, 100% will tell you other laws get envoked when you are in the court system and awaiting deportation with much better chances to become legal.

I wish my father who fought in WWII and immigrated here, was made legal becuase he went to war for the country had a say in all of this.

drudown
drudown

@seizeabe 

That's a very good narrative but not a prudent policy in times of record fiscal shortfall, dwindling resources and burgeoning social unrest in Mexico. Tell me, if our government cannot pay for its existing citizens' entitlements, how, pray tell, can we afford to create a social safety net for every family seeking a better life? I've been to six continents and seen how bad the world has it. So the real or imagined plight of those less fortunate cannot serve as a threshold for immigration.

I don't quite follow why our Congress suddenly has some legal or moral duty to improve the lives of foreign nationals illegally entering our jurisdiction. That turns the rule of law on its head and makes a mockery of sovereignty that works and is.

gysgt213
gysgt213 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Hey media!  This reaching across the aisle thing is what the men and women we send to congress are supposed to do.  Our little experiment in self-governing will work no other way.  However, if we were trying to form this country in today's political climate we wouldn't be able to do it.  And if we did manage to bandage something together our constitution would read like a sentencing and punishment document than one that resembles any sort of freedom.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@gysgt213 Excellent point. When Republicans and Democrats in Congress legislating together becomes a man-bites-dog story, it's a pretty shocking state of affairs. And it is.