- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2002

A labor union that represents Mexican workers is pressuring Congress to quickly "regularize the status" of Mexicans working illegally in the United States, but insiders say there will be no action on that issue this year.
The fast-growing, 1.5 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has begun a mail campaign urging legislators to fix specifics to President Bush's vague declaration that America should ignore the illegal status of an estimated 3.5 million undocumented Mexican workers in the nation and find a way for them to obtain permanent residency en route to becoming citizens.
SEIU also wants a program possibly a temporary visa arrangement that builds on the president's concept that it should be legal for Mexicans to flow back and forth across the border to work here and, perhaps, eventually earn U.S. citizenship.
The union, which represents janitors, hospital aides, home care workers and other service workers, has many Hispanic members.
"Members from around the country are sending postcards to Congress, asking legislators to take up the issue. We want the Congress to make immigration fair and help tax-paying, hardworking immigrants to become U.S. citizens," says Renee Asher, a union spokeswoman.
"We're going to see more and more activities of the grass-roots and community variety and efforts by groups and organizations that want lawmakers and President Bush to take up the issue again," Miss Asher said.
The president and ranking members of his administration are dealing with the issue.
According to news accounts, the matter has come up again during a Mexico visit by Tom Ridge, head of the Office of Homeland Security. Mr. Ridge was in Mexico last week, dealing with border-security issues and paving the way for Mr. Bush's visit to Monterey on March 22. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials have made it clear the issue is high on Mr. Bush's agenda, but Congress shows no interest.
"Everyone realizes that Congress' interest for the rest of the year lies elsewhere. Nothing will happen until the next session of Congress," says Randel Johnson, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president who closely monitors congressional activity on immigration policy.
"There's no heart in Congress at this point to push through something so controversial," said James Edwards, an immigration consultant and co-author of a book on the politics of immigration. "This is not to say Republicans in Congress wouldn't do something for a Republican president. It is to say there would be a whole lot of political damage to ensue if they dealt with this now."
Nonetheless, Rep. Christopher B. Cannon, Utah Republican, who is President Bush's point man on the issue in the House, said, "I'm hoping we'll get something done this year. We're talking a lot among ourselves."
Mr. Cannon says he expects "some progress [on a bill that calls] for tracking aliens here in America," adding that it may pass. He says it might be possible to tack on a provision giving temporary status to illegals "as an inducement for them to identify themselves."


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