- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Immigrant-advocacy groups yesterday said Senate Democrats are selling out their principles on families and workers’ rights if they agree with Republicans and President Bush on a compromise immigration bill.

The pressure could scuttle the deal that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, is negotiating with Republicans, led by Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, which has become known as the “grand bargain” — offering a path to citizenship for illegal aliens in exchange for limits on future foreign workers and cracking down on which family members can be sponsored by current immigrants.

“Anybody who supports the proposed grand bargain, I think, is a sellout — whether you’re Kyl or a Democrat, it doesn’t matter what your party is,” said Chung-wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, which yesterday released a statement challenging the negotiations.

Republicans, including those who split with their party last year to embrace a bill that conservatives derided as “amnesty,” have this year hitched their wagon to the Kyl-Kennedy negotiations, threatening to block any bill that does not emerge from that process.

“We are united in our resolve to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year and will only support moving forward with legislation that is a product of the ongoing bipartisan discussions,” wrote four Republicans who led last year’s push for a bill — Mel Martinez of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, was expected late last night to force the issue, making a parliamentary move to resurrect the old bill that he and those Republicans passed last year, hoping to put pressure on the Republicans.

“There are all kinds of excuses people could offer. But how can we have anything that’s more fair than taking a bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis,” Mr. Reid said.

Immigrant rights groups are wary of last year’s bill, which they said didn’t go far enough, but are even more worried about what could emerge from the bipartisan negotiations.

Cecilia Munoz, vice president for policy at the National Council of La Raza, said the negotiations are important, but she said she’s worried about some of the possibilities being floated, saying many of them “haven’t been considered in this debate before, and some of them are pretty radical.”

She cited rewriting the family-reunification parts of the immigration system to stress skills over family ties and preventing future guest workers from having immigrant rights.

“If the Republicans are serious about getting a bill passed, they will have to budge,” she said. “What they are proposing cannot pass the Senate.”

The New York Immigration Coalition said it wants the state’s two Democratic senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, to take a tougher stand on the negotiations.

“My question to them is: What are you doing about it?” Ms. Hong said. “Have you picked up the phone to say Senator Reid needs to stop selling out with this bargain?”

And groups are targeting Republicans as well, with a coalition announcing this week that they will run a media campaign against Mr. Martinez, who also is general chairman of the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, the immigration issue is boiling over in House as well, with Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee immigration subcommittee invoking a rarely used House rule to call a “minority day” hearing in retaliation for what they said was Democrats’ refusal to let them have their own witness at a hearing last week.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat and subcommittee chairman, wielded a tight gavel over an almost two-hour hearing, in which three witnesses chosen by Republicans spoke on behalf of tighter immigration control.

The panel’s top Republican, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, said he understands the majority controls the committee, “but when I’ve gone to the chair and said that we need a better level of communication and cooperation between our staff and her staff, her answer is, ‘We will abide by the rules,’ which is clear to me means [Democrats] … will do everything within the rules to shut down the voice of the other side.”

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