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Broad Effort to Resurrect Immigration Bill

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  • Ram Lau
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/16/washington/16immig.html June 16, 2007 Broad Effort to Resurrect Immigration Bill By ROBERT PEAR WASHINGTON, June 15 †At
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 16, 2007
      June 16, 2007
      Broad Effort to Resurrect Immigration Bill

      WASHINGTON, June 15 â€" At 4:30 p.m. on June 7, the Roman Catholic
      Church defied the sponsors of a comprehensive immigration bill and
      urged the Senate not to move toward final passage of the measure
      without significant changes.

      A few hours later, after the Senate rejected his motion to end debate
      on the bill, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of
      Nevada, pulled it from the Senate floor.

      His action prompted advocates to rally behind the bill. Within 24
      hours, the Catholic Church and many business, labor and Hispanic
      groups were urging the Senate to resurrect it.

      They had all complained about various provisions of the measure. But
      when it appeared that the bill might be dying, they were flummoxed.
      Separately and together, they mobilized scores of lobbyists. They put
      pressure on the Senate and on Mr. Reid, in particular, to revive the bill.

      “We were not happy with the bill,” said J. Kevin Appleby of the United
      States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “But we did not want it to die.”

      In public, Mr. Reid and the White House blamed each other for the
      apparent demise of the legislation, while conservative politicians and
      talk radio hosts criticized it as “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

      But behind the scenes, Mr. Reid was inundated with telephone calls,
      letters, faxes and e-mail urging him to bring the bill back up. The
      pleas came from groups as diverse as the National Restaurant
      Association, the National Council of La Raza, the New England Apple
      Council and the business software company Oracle.

      Farmers and ranchers from coast to coast told the Senate to get the
      job done.

      “We are tired of the politics, we’re tired of the excuses, and we’re
      not going away until Congress reforms the broken immigration system,”
      said Maureen J. Torrey, who grows vegetables and raises dairy cows in
      western New York.

      Unite Here, a union representing apparel, hotel and laundry workers,
      said the bill could be a boon to illegal immigrants who live in
      constant fear of being arrested and deported.

      “We are the biggest union in the state of Nevada,” said Thomas G.
      Snyder, political director of Unite Here, which has nearly 60,000
      members in Las Vegas casinos. “We have a long relationship with Harry
      Reid. He knows where we stand on immigration reform. We have been in
      constant contact with his office.”

      Business trade associations weighed in on Monday, four days after the
      bill appeared to have collapsed.

      The United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of
      Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Business and the
      Business Roundtable told the Senate to go back to work.

      The impasse could provide a “cooling-off period,” they said in a
      letter to all senators, urging them to pass a comprehensive
      immigration bill.

      Randel K. Johnson, a vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, said
      the efforts of business executives, combined with President Bush’s
      visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, “created an echo-chamber effect.”

      The message resonated with the Senate Republican leader, Mitch
      McConnell of Kentucky, and Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the chief
      Republican architect of the bill, who kept plugging for a deal.

      Laura Foote Reiff, a lobbyist for companies that employ millions of
      immigrants in the hotel, construction and health care industries,
      fired off a letter to Senate leaders expressing “deep concern and
      distress with the Senate’s perceived inability to complete work on the

      In opposing the effort to limit debate on June 7, the United States
      Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Senate needed more time to
      correct “significant flaws” in the bill: “the evisceration of the
      family preference system” and a legalization program that “may well be

      The bishops cited those concerns when it urged the Senate to take up
      the bill.

      “The issue of immigration is too important for our elected officials
      to abandon,” said Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, Calif.
      “It cannot wait for several more years. Human beings are suffering and

      Hispanic officials echoed that concern in urging Mr. Reid to revive
      the bill.

      “Immigration is a life and death issue,” said Representative Luis V.
      Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the immigration task
      force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “Each day that goes by
      without action means more people will die in the desert.”

      Mr. Bush did his part to whip up support for the bill by cajoling
      Republican senators and giving a speech on the issue. That put
      pressure on Mr. Reid to respond.

      In addition, Mr. Reid was pummeled in some newspaper editorials and
      op-ed columns, which said it was shameful for him to let the bill die.

      James P. Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid, said the news media
      criticism had “zero effect” on the majority leader. Many have
      questioned the strength of his commitment, but Mr. Reid insisted, “I
      have every desire to complete this legislation.”

      On Friday, Mr. Reid said he would keep the Senate in session on
      weekends if necessary to complete work on the immigration bill this month.

      Aides to Mr. McConnell, the Republican leader, said he had not
      promised to deliver any specific number of votes for efforts to shut
      off debate on the bill.

      Only seven Republicans voted to end debate on June 7. Mr. Reid and the
      authors of the bill hope that more Republicans will support such a
      motion if they are allowed to offer amendments.

      One amendment would add $4.4 billion to the bill to increase border
      security and enforcement of the immigration law. Others would expand a
      guest worker program for low-skill workers and provide more temporary
      visas and green cards for high-tech professionals sought by companies
      like Microsoft, Intel and Google.

      One of the more contentious amendments, proposed by Senator Kay Bailey
      Hutchison, Republican of Texas, would require illegal immigrants to
      return to their home countries before they could obtain even temporary
      legal status.
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