- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

Senate offices are being inundated with calls and letters from angry constituents urging a vote against a measure granting amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens, aides say.
"Our offices have been flooded with calls here in Washington and in our Colorado offices," said Sean Conway, spokesman for Republican Sen. Wayne Allard.
"There are a lot of folks that are upset and saying they are opposed to it. Clearly it's been the issue du jour, which is surprising since campaign finance reform is up for a final vote," Mr. Conway said.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, is receiving 50 to 100 calls a day on the measure from constituents in her border state all against it, her spokeswoman said.
"It's not the same as impeachment, but it's above average for an issue," her spokeswoman said.
The office of Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and supporter of the border security bill, has only received 15 calls this week, most in opposition, a spokesman said.
In a press conference yesterday, Mr. Brownback said the Senate has the option of passing one of two border security bills, one with and one without the amnesty clause.
"America cannot wait for border security. We need a bill, either bill, to pass and pass soon," Mr. Brownback said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, has received several hundred calls, the majority of which opposed the amnesty measure, said spokesman Howard Gantman.
A flood of calls came after the issue was highlighted on the Rush Limbaugh radio show, Mr. Gantman said.
Mrs. Feinstein is a sponsor of the border safety bill, and believes it has a better chance of passage without the amnesty measure added by the House.
"It might slow the whole process down, and the border bill is urgently needed," Mr. Gantman said.
One East Coast Republican office has received more than 200 phone calls and 100 letters all opposed since the measure contained in a border security bill passed the House last week by one vote. Phones are also ringing off the hook in a Republican Senator's office from the Southwest.
More than a dozen Senate offices representing different regions of the countries were contacted by The Washington Times, but calls were only returned from undecided members.
Staffers examined the mail and phone messages and determined "grass-roots" lobbying is being generated by individual constituents, as opposed to "AstroTurf lobbying" being generated by paid lobbyists inside the Beltway.
President Bush this week called on the Senate to pass the border security bill with the amnesty measure, but it is being blocked by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat.
"He urges that it come up under normal procedure, be debated, and amended," said Mr. Byrd's spokesman Tom Gavin.
As a matter of policy, Mr. Gavin said, the office does not discuss constituent mail or calls and would not relate what kind of support Mr. Byrd is receiving from his constituents.
The House passed the measure just hours after it was learned the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) issued student visas for two of the terrorists who attackd America on September 11.
The amnesty measure would allow immigrants to pay $1,000 fees to stay in the country while their residency applications are processed.
"Congress passing amendments at the same time the INS is demonstrating it is incapable of issuing visas to the right people is what caused the phone banks to light up on Capitol Hill," said David Rey, spokesman for the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Democrats in support of the measure are also getting a smattering of calls, but not nearly the volume of their Republican colleagues.
The office of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, one of the bill's sponsors, reported only 10 calls in the last couple of days all from out of state and against the measure.
Sen. Larry E. Craig, Utah Republican, is also getting calls but the numbers "are not overwhelming at this point," said spokesman Mike Tracy.
However, callers are split over the issue that can affect farm workers, a key matter in Western states.
"We have people who don't want to see anyone in the country illegally to get amnesty, but by the same token we have family members of farm workers here. Senator Craig is really torn on this issue but not on the fact that INS procedures need restructuring," Mr. Tracy said.
Amy Fagan contributed to this report.


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