Friday, May 25, 2007

A Republican congressman is trying to enlist new allies in his fight against the Senate immigration bill, calling on Mothers Against Drunk Driving to get involved because the bill allows illegal aliens repeatedly convicted of drunken driving to avoid deportation.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, fired off a letter yesterday to MADD’s president, Glynn R. Birch, urging him to support changing the Senate bill to prevent repeat drunken drivers from getting “amnesty” in the Senate bill.

“MADD speaks with great moral authority. I ask you to use that authority,” Mr. Smith wrote.

He said the drunken-driving changes could save lives and noted the story of Alfredo Ramos, an illegal alien who was charged with manslaughter after a March 30 accident that killed two teenage girls in Virginia Beach.

According to press reports, Ramos, 22, had been convicted of DUI and two counts of public intoxication in the Hampton Roads area before the deadly accident.

“He had previous convictions for similar offenses, but he was not deported,” Mr. Smith said. “If he had been, these girls would be alive today.”

The Senate bill bars illegal aliens with aggravated felonies or three misdemeanors on their record from legalization and the path to citizenship, but that does not apply to most drunken-driving convictions.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, has proposed an amendment to the bill that would make repeat drunken-driving convictions grounds for being deported under the bill. The amendment also would apply to illegal aliens who are sex offenders, those who have provided support to terrorists or those who have been ordered deported by a court and are ignoring that order.

In his letter, Mr. Smith asked MADD to help pass Mr. Cornyn’s amendment.

A message left with MADD’s national office was not returned.

Mr. Cornyn’s amendment will be voted on when the Senate returns after a weeklong vacation. Democrats have spoken against the amendment, arguing it short-circuits due process.

Mr. Smith also has called on union leaders to fight the Senate bill.

“Whatever our differences on the other aspects of the immigration issue, we must unite to defeat a bad deal for the American worker,” he wrote to the AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union.

Also yesterday, a new poll found support for legalizing illegal aliens who have been here longer than two years — a feature of last year’s Senate bill, but not of this year’s version, which gives legal status to almost anyone here before Jan. 1.

The CBS-New York Times survey found 62 percent of the 1,125 adults polled said those here illegally for two years should be allowed to apply for an unspecified legal status. But, like most surveys on immigration, which show a conflicted public, the poll also found 69 percent want illegal aliens to “be prosecuted and deported.”

The poll also found pessimism about immigrants.

More people thought a guest-worker program would increase illegal entry than decrease it, and more people thought immigrants will make society worse than thought they will better it.

And 62 percent of those surveyed said illegal aliens do not try to learn English within a reasonable period of time.

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