WASHINGTON – While the debate over immigration reform appears to have taken a backseat in the public’s consciousness with the number of White House controversies suddenly swirling around, it hasn’t escaped the attention of congressional conservatives who aim to kill it.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has completed two mark-up sessions on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act with a third scheduled for Thursday. The panel thus far has considered 67 of the more than 300 amendments offered without altering or changing its basic thrust – requiring undocumented workers to seek provisional legal status that allows them to work and an opportunity to apply for permanent residency after 10 years.
That lack of change doesn’t sit well with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a panel member and an outspoken opponent of the legislation pieced together by a bipartisan group known as the Gang of Eight. Sessions declared he has no doubt that once they become aware of the scope of the legislation, “Americans’ opposition to the legislation will rise and that they will call on their lawmakers to do the same.”
“Americans believe in immigration but they believe in a reasonable flow of immigration that promotes assimilation and improved economic opportunity for both immigrants and citizens alike,” Sessions said. “It is perhaps the single issue in which both parties are most out of step with the people.”
Sessions offered an amendment that would have effectively capped the number of immigrants at 23 million over 10 years and placed a cap of 10 million on temporary workers — limiting the grants of legal status and work authorization to 33 million over the next decade. It failed 1-17.
“After today’s committee meeting there is no remaining dispute that the Gang of Eight’s proposal represents a staggering increase in the future flow of immigration — even as polling shows a majority of Americans believe current levels should be reduced,” Sessions said. “At a time when a record number of Americans are on welfare and have dropped out of the work force, our focus should instead be on helping struggling Americans return to the work force.”
Sessions and other conservatives are gearing up for what could be a protracted fight. On Tuesday, six House members declared their intention to mobilize against the legislation, maintaining that providing a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally makes a mockery of the rule of law.
“When we ignore the rule of law we become like the country many immigrants are fleeing,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). “It leads to chaos. Ignore it and you disintegrate into the same type of chaos from which these people came.”
President Obama, who supports the legislation, is failing in his duty to “protect the nation and control its borders,” Gohmert said.