Immigration Bill: Moment of Truth

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jun 07, 2007 10:10 AM

Drudge has an "RIP" headline up for it, but that seems overly optimistic to me.

If it dies, it may have been a Democrat that killed it. No, really:

Afragile compromise that would legalize millions of unlawful immigrants risks coming unraveled after the Senate voted early Thursday to place a five-year limit on a program meant to provide U.S. employers with200,000 temporary foreign workers annually.

The 49-48 vote came two weeks after the Senate, also by a one-votemargin, rejected the same amendment by Sen. Byron Dorgan. The North Dakota Democrat says immigrants take many jobs Americans could fill.

The reversal dismayed backers of the immigration bill, which is supported by President Bush but loathed by many conservatives. Business interests and their congressional allies were already angry that the temporary worker program had been cut in half from its original400,000-person-a-year target.

A five-year sunset, they said, could knock the legs from the precarious bipartisan coalition aligned with the White House. The Dorgan amendment"is a tremendous problem, but it's correctable," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. The coalition will try as early as Thursday to persuade at least one senator to help reverse the outcome yet again, he said.

Where's everyone's excitement for this kind of bipartisanship? Is it not the highest form of legislating? Michelle notes that Dorgan is published on NRO today, speaking against amnesty:

So, we try to manage immigration through quotas. Nearly a million and a half people come to our country legally every year through this process. In addition, another one million people plus come here eachyear to work legally at agricultural jobs.

Now, I’m sensitive to the fact that some immigrants who have come here illegally have worked hard for decades and even raised their families here. We need to take that into account as we try to resolve their status.

But I don’t think we should decide that anybody who showed up here illegally as of last December 31 should be given a green light to stay here and work here permanently.

Our laws need to be enforced — both at the border and at the workplace. Just as someone sneaking across the border illegally should be punished, so too should employers who break the law and hire illegal immigrants for low wages.

Michelle also gives a great run-down of all the political theater on the floor of the Senate yesterday. She liveblogged the whole thing, so you don't have to subject yourself for C-SPAN.

Looks like today is the moment of truth for the bill.

Capt. Ed reports on how Sen. Lindsey Graham continues to embarrass himself on this issue.

The Washington Post still has faith in the bill's passage, and charts some of the developments from yesterday's wrangling:

Still, the bill took a decidedly conservative turn last night with the adoption of amendments that would at once declare English the national language and designate English the "common language" of the United States.The Senate also blocked the bill's newly legalized undocumented workersfrom receiving the earned-income tax credit, while denying legalized undocumented workers any Social Security benefits they may have earned after overstaying their visa.

Senators also undid a provision that would keep information from visa applications confidential.

But those changes were not immediately hailed as deal-breakers. The vote to sunset the guest-worker program came so late that its impact was not clear. The known challenges to the bargain were defeated, however. One such proposal, by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), would have blocked legalization for a broad array of legal infractions, including scrapes with immigration courts.

Here's an alternate description of that Cornyn amendment:

Cornyn is pushing for his amendment banning felons from obtaining Z visas. If we don't adopt the amendment, "We should retitle this bill 'No Felon Left Behind.'"

Stay tuned...