Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Some House Republicans who want stricter immigration enforcement are threatening to block this week’s immigration debate if Republican leaders don’t allow votes on amendments that address issues such as building a barrier system, ending birthright citizenship and allowing local authorities to arrest illegal aliens.

The House is scheduled to vote on a border enforcement and employer verification bill tomorrow. Some Republicans are worried that they will get only one shot at an immigration enforcement bill before the Senate insists on broadening it into a guest-worker bill.

Unless they are allowed to offer a series of enforcement amendments, the Republicans said, they will vote against the rules for debate.



“I think we have to take a very long look at voting against the rule if there’s a failure to include proper correcting amendments,” said Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican, who wants to see an amendment that specifically would block a guest-worker program.

Most bills come to the House floor under Republican-written rules that specify which amendments are in order. The rules must be approved by a majority vote before the bill itself can be considered.

If enough Republicans join Democrats — who are expected to oppose the rule if it doesn’t allow them to vote on a plan to legalize illegal aliens — they could form a majority to block the entire bill.

The House Rules Committee will make a final decision today about amendments, but acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said votes will be allowed on many amendments.

“We expect that to be a wide-ranging debate,” he said.

The enforcement bill, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King, New York Republican, would authorize hiring more Border Patrol agents, expanding the expedited removal of some illegal aliens, allowing sheriffs in border counties to be reimbursed for helping enforce immigration law, and requiring employers to check Social Security numbers against a database to make sure their workers are legal.

That doesn’t go far enough for the Republicans pushing for amendments.

“It is not the ultimate border security bill; it is not the ultimate enforcement-only bill. It is just a part of that, and a fairly weak one,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus, who said he also is considering voting against the rule if it doesn’t allow for key amendments.

“The danger in this bill is that somehow or other it will be spun so that Americans will think we have done something significant on border security if it’s the only thing we pass,” he said.

On the other side, key Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, want to be allowed to vote on an amendment that would give current illegal aliens a path to citizenship and create a program for future foreign workers.

“We must debate immigration reform in a comprehensive manner. This half-baked approach will not suffice, and the American people deserve more,” Mr. Kolbe said.

The bill also faces stiff opposition from immigrant advocacy groups, such as the National Immigration Forum, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the National Council of La Raza.

“Rather than solving our immigration challenges, [the bill] would criminalize millions of hardworking, law-abiding immigrants and divide American families,” the AILA said in an e-mail urging supporters to lobby against the bill. “Enforcement-only legislation will not fix our broken immigration system.”

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