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February 23, 2007

Navigating immigration passage; U.S. legislators discuss what a successful immigration bill needs

Monday, February 19, 2007, by Dena Bunis; 202-628-6381; dbunis@ocregister.com

The Orange County Register

WASHINGTON - The debate about how to reform the nation's immigration system will soon heat up again on both sides of the Capitol.

With the Democratic takeover of Congress, two lawmakers long active in this issue will lead the House and Senate immigration subcommittees where policy decisions start. At his news conference Wednesday, President Bush reiterated his support for a comprehensive fix and said he believed this was an issue he could work on with the new majority.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, leads the House panel, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., heads the Senate subcommittee.

Lofgren recently sat down with The Orange County Register to talk about her plans for immigration. Kennedy declined an interview but answered by e-mail the questions posed to Lofgren.

Here are excerpts.

Q: What is your main goal as chair of the subcommittee?

Lofgren: Craft and guide to passage a comprehensive bipartisan, practical immigration reform bill.

Kennedy: We all agree that America's immigration system is broken. Millions of families wait for years to be reunited with their loved ones. Tens of thousands of employers are unable to obtain immigrant visas for the workers they depend on. The result is a growing crisis of illegal immigration. There's an urgent need for legislation and policies to fix the broken system.

Q: What will it take to get that done?

Lofgren: We're going to start right away and build on the work we did last year. The House passed the Sensenbrenner bill (an enforcement-only measure by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.), but most House members really never had the full issue before them. There's an educational effort that will have to happen here in the House and some reaching out to some people who think they disagree, and find common ground with them.

Kennedy: Right now, we have the elements in place to enact the reforms the American people have been calling for. The president and the House of Representatives are genuine partners in this debate. I am confident we can pass a tough but fair immigration plan that protects our borders, upholds our values, strengthens our laws and ensures our prosperity.

Q: Why has getting a comprehensive bill been so difficult?

Lofgren:People have strong views on this subject. I think that the section of the Republican caucus that Mr. (Tom) Tancredo (R-Colo.) seems to speak for seems very adamant about their opposition to immigration, and I don't expect that he and I are likely to find common ground. That doesn't mean we can't find common ground with others on the other side of the aisle. I think also that it was an issue that some thought could be used to political advantage, and there was a lot of angry rhetoric that made it more difficult to reach agreement. What I've been talking to some of my colleagues about is if we just stop yelling about this and just methodically work our way through the outstanding issues, we'd probably get a lot further.

Kennedy: On the issue of immigration, emotions run high, and divisiveness gets in the way of progress.

Q: The conventional wisdom is that the Senate will act on a comprehensive bill first. Is that so? Will something get to Bush's desk this year?

Lofgren: They probably will. We want to act promptly, and we also want to be inclusive. But we have some work to do. They did a lot of that already, and there's some things that we didn't have a chance to do last Congress. (Q: So you think it will get to the president this year?) Yes. I'm an optimist so I hope we will.

Kennedy: Yes, we can. (Sen.) John McCain (R-Ariz.) and I are working together to put forward a solid bill that will pass both the House and the Senate this year. The Senate spent weeks on our bill last year, so it makes sense for the Senate to take the lead. But our colleagues in the House are just as determined to pass a good bill, and we're working closely together....".


Posted by VisaLawyer at February 23, 2007 06:13 PM


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