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January 19, 2007

The Alliance for Immigration Reform 2007

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/politics/16492326.htm

Posted on Thu, Jan. 18, 2007

"Coalition launches campaign to overhaul immigration laws By Dave Montgomery McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

WASHINGTON - A diverse coalition that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Catholic bishops, Hispanics and labor unions Thursday launched an attempt to push a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws "over the finish line" in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

With President Bush and Democratic congressional leaders pledging bipartisan cooperation to confront one of the nation's most volatile issues, leaders of the group said the new Congress offers the best opportunity yet to pass a comprehensive immigration plan that would legalize millions of undocumented workers who are in the country illegally.

"We strongly believe this is the year to get it done," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. After getting immigration "on the radar screen" in the previous Republican-controlled Congress, Sharry said, "this is the year we want the plane to land."

Bush, who's called for an immigration overhaul since he became president in 2001, plans to make the issue one of his top five priorities in his Jan. 23 State of the Union address. The Senate last year passed a comprehensive plan that largely embraced Bush's goal, but the measure died in the House of Representatives amid objections from conservative Republicans.

The Alliance for Immigration Reform 2007 reunites many of the advocacy groups from the previous congressional battle, including the National Council of La Raza, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Restaurant Association.

The coalition also includes two major labor unions - the Service Employees International and UNITE HERE, which represents hotel, food service employees and apparel workers - that have supported a controversial guest worker program. The issue has divided organized labor, with the 53-member AFL-CIO fighting the proposal.

Cecilia Munoz, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, said the coalition's "starting point" will likely be an updated version of legislation sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

The McCain-Kennedy bill, first introduced in 2005, would grant legal status and eventual citizenship to most illegal immigrants after they pay fines of $2,000, pass criminal background checks and meet English and civics requirements. It also would create a guest-worker program to bring in up to 400,000 workers a year to fill low-skilled and unskilled jobs.

The Chamber of Commerce and other business groups in the coalition are eager to help address what they say is a chronic labor shortage, and they've made a guest worker program a major priority. Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, a pro-immigration policy organization, said the goal would be to craft a "bipartisan, pragmatic bill" that will appeal to Republicans as well as Democrats and include strong enforcement measures.

"We made a good start last year," Jacoby said. "But this is the year to finish the job and bring it home.""
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Posted by VisaLawyer at January 19, 2007 07:15 AM

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