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August 15, 2006 7:00 AM CDT

New Proposal on Immigration Draws Attention as Immigration Hearings Continue

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A new proposal on immigration draws attention as immigration hearings continue.
A new proposal on immigration draws attention as immigration hearings continue.

An effort to bridge divisions within the GOP over the immigration overhaul, has received a lukewarm response at best, from supporters of the Senate-passed bill. However, the Administration is taking the new proposal into serious consideration. All the while four House Committees continue to hold hearings on immigration reform around the country.

Recently Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana unveiled an approach which includes a collection of proposals that failed to gain ground when the Senate passed its legislation in May. Rep. Pence, who initially introduced the proposal, is a leading conservative and was a strong proponent of the House passed bill. However, in realizing that there were drastic differences between the House and Senate bill and what the President envisions, Pence and Hutchison have designed a "new" immigration proposal which they have met with both President Bush and Vice President Cheney to discuss.

In short, the bill has 3 main phases:

  1. Secure the U.S. border

  2. Upon successfully securing the border, a guest worker program will be put into place that will efficiently provide American employers with willing guest workers who come to America legally

  3. Enforce tough employer sanctions that ensure a full partnership between the business community and the federal government in the enforcement of our laws on immigration and guest workers.

Importantly, the Pence-Bailey plan mandates that the border be secured before the guest worker program can begin.

Meanwhile, before Congress recessed for the month of August to return home, four GOP Committee Chairman announced a series of hearings would take place regarding Immigration during the month of August. This increased the already long odds of President Bush prodding Congress into delivering an election-year overhaul of highly sensitive immigration laws. This move by House GOP Members proves to be a major setback in the effort to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. GOP leaders chose this option rather than taking the House-and Senate-passed legislation to conference, which is customary after both Chambers complete work on legislation dealing with the same issue. Democrats are calling the hearings a "sham" or a "charade" and have questioned why Republicans needed to hold the hearings after both Chambers have passed their bills. This practice is out of the ordinary, since hearings are designed as a forum to debate legislation that will be voted on in the future. During the hearings House Republicans will highlight what they see as flaws in the Senate-passed bill.

The Hearings which began mid-July and will end the latter part of August, are taking place in cities and towns all over the country. During the hearings committee members will address various issues dealing with Immigration. Importantly for the Masonry Industry, the cost and impact of a new employee verification system will be evaluated. In addition, the committees will also hear from witnesses regarding the impact that Immigrant workers have on the American workforce.

There are still hopes of passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform this year. Sen. Hutchison said during a news conference with Rep. Pence, referring to their proposal that, "this is meant to jump-start a conference committee." Also as recently as July 24, President Bush insisted that Congress send him a comprehensive bill addressing both, border security, guest workers and path to citizenship. It remains to be seen what action, if any, Congress will take on this issue when Members return from recess after the Labor Day Holiday.


About the Author

Jessica Johnson Bennett was the Director of Government Affairs for MCAA. She has an extensive background in public affairs and government relations. Her expertise in strategic planning, PAC management and operations help on key policy issues.

 

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