- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

House members warned Senate leaders yesterday that they will oppose any immigration legislation that goes beyond tightening border security and enforcing current immigration laws.

“Unfortunately, we have grave concerns about several of the proposals which have been presented to your committee,” the 70 Republicans and one Democrat wrote in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican.

“We are concerned that some of these proposals are fundamentally incompatible with the desire of the American public for real immigration reform — and their clear opposition to reform proposals that amount to little more than thinly disguised attempts to provide amnesty,” the lawmakers said.

The letter arrived as the Judiciary Committee pleaded with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, for more time to hammer out a guest-worker plan and other provisions that the house opposed.

“If the Senate were to pass such a proposal, we believe it would doom any chance of a real reform bill reaching the president’s desk this year,” the House members cautioned.

Adding further pressure to Mr. Specter’s committee, Mr. Frist announced that he will bypass Judiciary and introduce his own border-security bill to the Senate floor when Congress returns March 27 from the St. Patrick’s Day recess.

“Our country needs security at our borders in order to slow the flow of illegal immigration and make America safer from foreign criminals and terrorists,” said Mr. Frist, who has been mentioned as a 2008 presidential candidate. He told reporters that he expects a guest-worker program to be added on the Senate floor.

Mr. Specter called Mr. Frist’s proposal to draft a bill on the floor a “colossal mistake.” Mr. Frist’s bill mirrors the proposal that Mr. Specter offered, but without the provisions dealing with the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal aliens or any guest-worker program.

“This bill will be based on the consensus enforcement, visa reform and immigration litigation reform titles of Chairman Specter’s [proposal] of border-security legislation and focus on ensuring strict enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws,” Mr. Frist said.

Seated with Mr. Specter in the Senate press gallery yesterday afternoon, Mr. Frist told reporters that the Judiciary Committee had made “tremendous progress” on immigration reform but that he must move forward with his own version if he hopes to have a bill on the floor in two weeks.

If the committee completes legislation with the guest-worker provisions that the House opposes, Mr. Frist said, he will substitute the committee’s bill and withdraw his own.

“It is my hope that the Judiciary Committee will be able to report a bill we can bring to the floor that meets these objectives,” he said. “As a country of immigrants who respect the rule of law, I expect us to honor those heritages as this debate unfolds.”

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