- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

Conservatives groups’ anger at yesterday’s immigration deal may be overshadowed only by that of some liberal and immigrant rights’ groups, which said they will fight to change or block the agreement.

“We say no to this deal. We already know that there are provisions that are completely unacceptable,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, which is pressing for more rights for both illegal aliens and future foreign workers.

Meanwhile, the conservative base that President Bush and Senate Republicans rely on for both support and election-day votes was furious.

“It’s amnesty, it’s guest workers — we reject it,” Phyllis Schlafly, a prominent Republican and president of the conservative Eagle Forum, told The Washington Times. “I don’t see any significant difference between it and the McCain-Kennedy bill.”

In tugging at the senators from both ends, the groups yesterday underscored just how difficult it will be for Mr. Bush and the senators who struck yesterday’s deal to pass a bill that makes nearly nobody happy.

The deal would make a path to citizenship available for the nearly 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the United States and would revamp how future workers and family members can come to the country. It also would require 370 miles of fence to be built on the U.S.-Mexico border and that a system for verifying employees be up and running.

Conservative leaders were mystified about why Mr. Bush and Senate Republican leaders seemed so eager to please Democrats and the various Democratic-voting lobbying groups that promote amnesty and other benefits for illegal aliens and oppose any serious efforts at border control and hiring enforcement.

Tina Benkiser, chairman of the Republican Party in Mr. Bush’s home state of Texas, said she was livid over the compromise.

“It will be yet another colossal failure in dealing with the massive invasion of our country. It accomplishes nothing more than to compromise the security of the American people,” she said.

Virginia Republican activist Morton Blackwell, a former Reagan White House official, came down hard on the immigration compromise, saying, “The Bush administration is creating a wedge issue with what’s left of the president’s support.

“You can’t make friends of your enemies by making enemies of your friends,” Mr. Blackwell said.

From the liberal and pro-immigrant rights side, groups were split, with some rejecting the deal outright and others saying that they won’t draw lines in the sand but that the bill must become more generous if it is to win their support.

“We are encouraged that the senators’ negotiations have born fruit, but the fruit is not ripe,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.

Kevin Appleby, who follows immigration issues for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bill is “the beginning of the process, not the end.”

Even the reaction for the Democrats’ congressional leaders was tepid.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he is concerned about the rights of future workers and curtailing family immigration.

“We need to improve the bill as it moves through the legislative process,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said she has “serious concerns about some elements of this proposal” and demanded that the Senate pass an “improved” product.

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