Immigration bill debate heats up in Washington; filibuster threatened

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times had front page articles today in the immigration debate in Congress. A bush proposal for a guest worker program is still very much alive; so are proposals from McCain, Specter and Frist. The McCain and Specter bills have guest worker provisions; the Frist bill is focused on closing the Mexican-U.S. border to illegal workers, which are now 7.5 million in number.
Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) said to the Associated Press, “Rarely have I seen an issue that divides people so clearly, with so little possibility of seeking a middle ground.” The article printed in the Washington Post refers to the illegal immigrant debate as “an early battle of the 2008 presidential campaign, as his would-be White House successors jockey for position ahead of next week’s immigration showdown in the Senate…. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) announced that he will not accept [a guest worker] program until “we have proven without a doubt that our borders are sealed and secure. At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) promised this week to filibuster Frist’s enforcement-only bill.”
The New York Times, also today, says that Bush said Thursday that his message is: ”If you are doing a job that Americans won’t do, you’re welcome here for a period of time to do that job”… “The president is working hand-in-hand with employers who want cheap labor to clean hotel rooms, pick crops and do other tasks that they say keep their businesses competitive. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., says he understands those economic issues, but his focus is on the main concern voiced by the social conservatives — national security.
”The most important thing is that we keep our borders safe, we keep America safe,” said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call. ”It’s obvious there are drugs, there are criminals coming through those borders. There are also people from known terrorist organizations coming through those borders.”
The Times article goes on: Three-quarters of respondents to a Time magazine poll in January said the United States is not doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country. Roughly the same amount said they favor a guest worker program for illegal immigrants, but 46% said those workers should have to return first to their native countries and apply. About 50% favored deporting all illegal immigrants.”

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