Immigration bill faces last chance before GOP takes House control

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The Democratic National Committee sent out a tweet on President Obama’s Twitter feed trying to drum up support for the legislation and scheduled a Thursday call with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Meanwhile, advocates are intensely lobbying lawmakers’ offices. Gabe Gonzalez, chief political strategist for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, said as of the beginning of this week, supporters made 30,000 calls to members of Congress urging them to pass the bill.

He said the overall goal for immigration rights advocates remains a comprehensive immigration-reform bill that would apply to all of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, but added that any incremental steps are welcome.

Lawmakers have been searching for support by tweaking the legislation.

They dropped language that would have undone the federal government’s ban on offering illegal-immigrant college students in-state tuition rates, and added more checks illegal immigrants must pass in order to gain legal status.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, pointedly noted that Democrats have introduced four different versions of the bill in recent days, and said action is premature since the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn’t held a hearing in seven years to examine the issue.

“The American people did not vote for an amnesty in this past election,” Mr. Sessions said, adding that the bill “will not pass next year.”

Mr. Gonzalez, though, said he still sees a path for Senate passage, saying there are at least eight and as many as 10 Republicans who could vote for the Dream Act.

By the same token, though, Ms. Jenks counts at least a handful of Democrats who she said will vote against the bill, and said there are others on the fence.

Both sides are looking to the vote to give them a sense for where the action will be in the next Congress.

“The Senate vote - that’s going to tell us which Senate Democrats that are up in 2012 are willing to go with us, because they have to. It’s going to tell us which Senate Democrats have seen the writing on the wall and know they can buck their leadership, even though they’re not up in 2012,” Ms. Jenks said.

But Mr. Gonzalez said the results of last month’s elections, in which Hispanic voters helped power Democratic candidates to victory in Senate races in Nevada, Colorado and California, show the political landscape is changing. He said the GOP will recognize the power of those voters.

“I am consistently surprised by where we find support and where we run into roadblocks. We are very clear it’s going to be harder, but we find support in the weirdest places,” he said.

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