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Immigration Bills Show (Some) Signs of Life

The issue that was left for dead on Capitol Hill last year -- comprehensive immigration reform -- is showing some signs of life.

Members of both parties are still all over the map on the immigration issue, and passing a major package in an election year remains a tall order. But a flurry of meetings and legislative maneuvers, particularly on the House side, suggest that many lawmakers haven't given up hope on reaching an immigration deal during this Congress.

What would be in that deal? The formula for a consensus package looks something like this:

Border enforcement + high-tech worker visas + seasonal worker visas + legalization of undocumented workers = compromise bill

Of course, every element of that equation is potentially problematic, particularly the undocumented workers piece -- a deal-breaker for some Democrats and most Republicans, who dub it "amnesty." But the legislative wheels are turning nonetheless.

Earlier this week Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), a Democratic point man on the immigration issue, convened a meeting with several of his party's key members to gauge whether a deal is attainable. Becerra was wary of divulging any details of the meeting to Capitol Briefing, saying: "Conversations continue in the effort to try to find a bipartisan compromise that can not just pass the House but also get through the Senate."

Much of the current action focuses on two House bills that are the subjects of discharge petitions, which can force measures onto the chamber floor if they get signatures from 218 members.

The first bill, authored by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), is called the SAVE Act and is strictly concerned with tougher border enforcement and employee verification. The bill has a bipartisan list of 149 cosponsors, and the discharge petition to bring it to the floor had 185 signatures as of Tuesday, nearly all of them from Republicans.

The second key measure is one sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that would allow visas for more seasonal workers, a key priority for the agriculture industry. That discharge petition only has 14 signatures, but the idea has a fair amount of bipartisan support.

The presidential campaign may be clouding the picture. Both Shuler and Stupak have alleged that Republicans are preventing action on their bills because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a strong supporter of last year's effort to get a comprehensive measure, doesn't want to risk further alienating the GOP base during his White House bid. Republicans have strongly denied those charges.

Becerra said that Democratic leaders would not feel forced to act just because of the discharge petitions on the Stupak and Shuler bills.

"You typically don't make laws through discharge petitions," Becerra said. "We're in the majority so we're going to try to make laws the normal way."

It is possible, though, that the two bills could be combined, along with proposals to boost H-1B visas for high-tech workers, into something that would command bipartisan majorities in both chambers. But Democratic leaders appear unlikely to bring forth any package that does not also deal with the status of current illegal immigrants, a priority for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The CHC also wants legal immigrants to have more leeway to bring family members into the country.

"I think most people are coming to the conclusion that you don't want to deal with immigration in an ad hoc, isolated way," Becerra said.

As was the case with last year's failed effort on immigration, it looks again like any compromise bill that moves will have to have all the pieces of that puzzle, or the whole endeavor will fall apart again. Prospects for such a deal this year remain slim, but that won't stop members from trying.

By Ben Pershing  |  April 3, 2008; 12:21 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Agenda  
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Has anyone read John Grisham's new book: "The Appeal". They really need to. I don't like nonfiction as a rule, but this book was outstanding and thought provoking.
No Immigration reform, no Gay Marriage proposals, No flag burning proposals and no abortion issues should be on any ballots this election season.
Democrats have to stay on the ball and keep their attention focused on the prize.
This nation is in danger, Peter G Peterson seems to think that future generations are in trouble and I agree. Democrats need to do a reality check and keep young people engaged in this political process. Neocon, evangelical extremism is doing more damage at the ballot box than al Quaeda did with airplanes.

Posted by: CarmanK | April 3, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

we do NOT need illegals, this country has lost well over 200,000 jobs over and ABOVE new jobs created.

Every job thats given to an Illegal is a job that an AMERICAN FAMILY needs.

To grant amnesty of any kind is a slap in the face of every unemployed AMERICAN.

I for one do NOT condone slavery, much less wage slavery and thats EXACTLY what we have with Illegals WAGE SLAVERY.

Until the border is SECURE and the great majority of Illegals have deported themselves due to their employers being arrested it would be foolish to grant amnesty or any goodies.

If we do this, the same thing that happened after Reagans Amnesty will happen and we'll have 20 million more crosing the borders taking the jobs that those given Amnesty were doing because business isn't going to want to pay living wages to the new Citizens the same as they don't want to pay a living wage to the Citizen of today.

Posted by: John C. Page III | April 3, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse


You wrote: " Democratic leaders appear unlikely to bring forth any package that does not also deal with the status of current illegal immigrants, a priority for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus."

You left something out, it is actually the Democratic Bigots and Hispanic Caucus Racists. You see Latin Americans benefit at 30 times the rate of non-Latin American from "Legalization" (See here:

In other words illegal immigration discriminates based on national origin, it is racist, the Hispanic Caucus members are racists for supporting it, and the Democratic Leadership are bigots for supporting it.

Posted by: Vinh Le | April 3, 2008 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Wow, evangelical extremism does more damage than AL Queda? I know some soldiers famiies who might disagree. You are truly disgusting. I am not evangelical, I was Catholic until it started being swarmed with pedophile priests, illegal alien coyotes, DUIs, and Farrakhan admirers. But to compare evangelicals to Al Queda -- that is something I must cut and paste, and make sure it is spread nationwide that Barack Obama supporters really feel about them. Talk about motivating republicans.

Posted by: Karen | April 3, 2008 9:23 PM | Report abuse

dont forget america is a country of immigrant, lets the bill pass, we are coraporate in the economy,and we want the best for U.S.A God bless you.

Posted by: | April 3, 2008 10:51 PM | Report abuse

Increase H1B visa's? Yes.

Increase Ag worker visa's? Sure.

Increase family reunification visa's? A-OK.

Student visa's? No problem.

Ease restrictions, streamline the application process, and speed up verifications? Great. Let's do ALL that.

Provide a path to legal status to persons unlawfully residing in this country? Never! Never ever. Amnesty we call it, and amnesty it is.

I will rewards for cheaters.

Posted by: Amara | April 4, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse

To compare evangelicals to al Quaeda was idiotic "CarmanK". Are you kidding me?

Ben, you had some good points.

Posted by: Chris Saunders | April 4, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

How can anybody even thing of granting amnesty to the illegals who don"t even want to learn our language,adopt to our customs or show any respect for the way this country and the people have lived for hundreds of years.Come in the legal way or go back where you came from.

Posted by: erbear | April 4, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I yes increase visa's for workers in this country but we must deport those who continue to come here illegally. If it's not done now we will be over run by them. It's a slap in the face to americans and also a slap in the face to those who come here legally. How much can this country take, the backs of taxpayers are on the verge of being broken now . We can't continue on this path.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

I must agree with Amara. Further, I urge voters to work to unseat members of Congress who have supported amnesty, and to vote against any Presidential candidate who supports it. The best way to do this is to vote for Ron Paul; neither Obama, Clinton, nor McCain have the best interest of our Republic at heart.

Posted by: wdlockaby | April 5, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe how some of you act with your words. I am an American-an you say illegals are taking Americans jobs? Well the Americans have to want to work and get out there and apply, but some of them don't. But they can sure complain about the illegals. Also, when it comes to making the current illegals legal there should be rules - no criminal issues, and know how to speak english. Not every illegal person is bad - you don't know their reason for being illegal - the paperwork could be back logged for whatever reason or something as simple as an over site. Also, the US does need to secure the border and punish the people who actually jump the border. Some current illegal immigrants came to the USA legal and now are out of status. No will every know why nor should we judge - No one is perfect! God Bless The USA!!!

Posted by: unknownIllinois | April 6, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

The pandering politicians still don't get it -- Americans want illegal immigration to stop first. After a few years demonstrating that it really did stop, then we can talk about amnesty for some. Insourcing of labor and outsourcing of jobs is wrecking the middle class, along with Republican trade policies that put corporate profits ahead of everything else.

Posted by: Chuck | April 9, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Let's cut the crap. No one's ever lost jobs because of illegal immigrants. All they are doing is the dirty jobs for Citizens.
If you are willing to fill those jobs then throw them out or do whatever. But don't call the comprehensive immigration reform bill as an "amnesty". Many of illegal immigratns don't have money to pay taxes and fines anyway. They have no choice, but to leave U.S. However, speed up the immigration process. Do any of U.S citizens know how many applicants are waiting on the line to obtain Green Card? Do u know for how long they've been waiting? Don't blame everything on the immigrants. U.S was not meant to be the World's Strongest economy Empire if it wasn't for immigrants.

Posted by: Steve | April 9, 2008 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, there is no way that this is going to end well. Amnesty will be granted because not enough Americans are standing up to the unholy alliance of shabby politicians, big business and so-called social justice advocates (what about justice for us?) that have made it all possible. Last year's near-catastrophic amnesty bill was barely averted, but it will return.
And the damage that the past 20 years of rampant illegal immigration has already done to this country's economy and environment will seem paltry by comparison to the new flood that this will inspire. We're toast as a cohesive society with a viable middle class, and the only ones who don't know it yet are the loser left ('We're all just a country of immigrants') that has been taken in by them and supported it all the way. Everyone's gotten theirs, except the working and middle class of this country who have been sold down the river...

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