Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 3, 2006

Senate discusses border legislation

Filed under: Border Security,Congress and HLS — by Christian Beckner on March 3, 2006

The Senate Judiciary Committee held its first meeting yesterday to discuss immigration and border security legislation, and it’s apparent from reporting on the meeting – see the Houston Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle – that Sen. Specter’s draft bill is unpopular with his fellow Senators, and for disparate reasons.

From the SF Chronicle story:

Pressure from all sides to do something — the question being what — to fix the nation’s immigration system pushed the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday to open a laborious, monthlong effort to come up with some remedy for the tide of illegal migrants.

The fracture in the Republican Party over immigration immediately became apparent in a three-way division among party members on the committee. Hardliners urged a crackdown on employers and the border. Others pushed a guest worker program that would require an exodus of all 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. And still others called for a guest worker program that would allow illegal immigrants now here to apply for permanent residence and citizenship while enforcement was beefed up.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the committee chairman, acknowledged he has found no takers for his big compromise bill that attempts to thread the needle between President Bush’s insistence on a guest worker program and a backlash against illegal immigration as a tight congressional midterm election approaches.

“I have seen virtually no agreement on anything,” Specter said. “Emotions are at an all-time high.”

The articles suggest that Sen. Frist is like to introduce a “core” border security and enforcement bill if Specter’s bill fails to move forward by the end of March. That bill is likely to have many of the same elements as the House bill – more Border Patrol and new capital investments – but it’s unclear whether it would contain provisions to build a fence on the US-Mexico border. It’s also unclear whether a “security-only” bill could pass the Senate, out of a desire by some to keep the guest worker program idea alive and fear that the House-Senate conference could push the bill too far in the direction of the House’s bill.

Specter will be holding more meetings to discuss the bill during the next two weeks. Stay tuned.

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