Monday, October 4, 2004

The White House has told House Republicans that it wants them to remove provisions in their intelligence-overhaul bill that would crack down on illegal aliens’ obtaining drivers’ licenses, allow easier deportation and limit the use of foreign consular ID cards.

The Senate’s bill lacks those provisions, and as the two chambers race toward trying to pass a bill before the Nov. 2 election, the measures are a potential stumbling block.

The White House wants those provisions out, according to a congressional source familiar with the bill.

“They have expressed desire to kill some of the immigration provisions and gut some of others,” the source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Rosemary Jenks, a lobbyist for stricter immigration controls for the group NumbersUSA , who has been tracking the bill, said White House policy officials met with Republican staffers to urge them to remove the provisions, even though White House officials initially had signed off on those same provisions before the bill was introduced officially.

“The White House was involved in the negotiations before the bill was introduced, and now, for some reason, it has come back and decided to insist that the main provisions, the most effective provisions of the bill, be gutted,” she said.

She said House Republican leaders appear to be standing firm in refusing the White House demands. A White House spokesman did not return a call for comment yesterday.

Peter Gadiel, spokesman for 9/11 Families for a Secure America, said his organization will drop its endorsement of the bill if the immigration provisions are removed.

“This goes to the very heart of the entire conspiracy of 9/11,” he said. “These people entered the country, got driver’s licenses, used those driver’s licenses to obtain the services they needed, and then used those driver’s licenses to get on the plane.”

The House bill restricts federal employees’ acceptance of consular identification cards issued by other nations, which the Government Accountability Office said last week helps illegal aliens evade immigration law.

The bill also would set standards for driver’s licenses that would make it much more difficult for illegal aliens to obtain them and for temporary visitors to keep licenses past their visa expiration.

The legislation also would expedite deportation of immigrants who have entered the United States illegally in the past five years and curtail court reviews of deportation proceedings even when the person faces torture when returned home.

Angela Kelley, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum, said adding those amendments is an attempt to sink the entire bill.

“The piling on of unrelated legislative pet projects, especially by the Republican Party’s anti-immigration wing, could throw the carefully reasoned, bipartisan recommendations of the 9/11 commission to the curb,” she said.

Members of the National Commission for Terrorist attacks upon the United States held a press conference last week to complain about some of the House provisions and praise the Senate bill as it now stands. Commission Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton singled out some of the House immigration provisions as particularly problematic for commission members.

The White House also has issued a statement praising the Senate bill.

But Mr. Gadiel said removing the immigration provision would be breaking Congress’ promise to pass all of the September 11 commission’s recommendations.

He said senators should be warned: “If you really have the nerve to kill a final bill — ignore all the recommendations of the 9/11 commission and spit in the faces of the 9/11 families because the final bill [includes] all of the recommendations, not just the ones you find palatable, go ahead, kill the bill. See what the American people feel in November.”

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