Immigration debate resumes

The immigration debate will reopen this week as Congress returns to session. While the proposed legislation is drawing a lot of heat, particularly from the Bush base, new polls seem to indicate that momentum for legislation to deal with immigration is gaining public support. On Friday, The new York Times reported that a New York Times/CBS News Poll that indicated that “two-thirds of those polled said illegal immigrants who have a good employment history and no criminal record should gain legal status as the bill proposes: by paying at least $5,000 in fines and fees and receiving a renewable four-year visa.”
And in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 52 percent of those polled indicated they would support a program giving illegal immigrants the right to stay and work in the United States if they pay a fine and meet other requirements. Opposition to that proposal was 44 percent. The Washington Post reports that the backers of the bill are optimistic:

“After a week at home with their constituents, the Senate architects of a delicate immigration compromise are increasingly convinced that they will hold together this week to pass an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, with momentum building behind one unifying theme: Today’s immigration system is too broken to go unaddressed.
Congress’s week-long Memorial Day recess was expected to leave the bill in tatters. But with a week of action set to begin today, the legislation’s champions say they believe that the voices of opposition, especially from conservatives, represent a small segment of public opinion. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who led negotiations on the bill for his party, said the flood of angry calls and protests that greeted the deal two weeks ago has since receded every day.”

That’s not to say that it will be smooth sailing. The New York Times indicates that there are about 100 potential amendments floating, many of which could disrupt the delicate balance that has been forged. There are a few significant challenges that lead the pack. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey seeks an increase in the number of green cards available to families. And in an amendment that the New York Times editorial called “immigration sabotage” and an “amendment that could have been drafted by Kafka,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas seeks to broaden crimes that would bar eligibility, a proposal so broad and punitive in scope that it would effectively be a poison pill to the existing legislation.