by Reynold N. Mason, JD
Atlanta Feb. 20, 2011- According to a report in Politico on February 7th long-time amnesty supporters, Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer are reuniting to push “comprehensive” immigration reform in the Senate. They have reached out to several organizations in the open-borders lobby including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and numerous evangelical groups. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was one of three Republicans voting in favor of the DREAM Act last session, also confirmed that aides in Sen. Schumer’s office contacted her staff to discuss the issue. Both Senators Graham and Schumer have indicated that the talks are merely in its opening round and that reigniting their coalition may take some effort in the new Congress. “It’s in the infant stage,” Sen. Graham told Politico “I don’t know what the political appetite is to do something.” Schumer shares Graham’s sentiment, “What we’re doing is beginning these preliminary talks, particularly with outside groups, to try and regain the consensus that was pretty nicely formed last year.” “And who knows, we might surprise everyone and get something done. We realize it is a tough thing to do, but it is very important, and it’s worth a shot.” he said.
Graham and Schumer may be hoping to capitalize on the fact that five Senators have already announced they will not seek re-election in 2012—the same number of votes by which the DREAM Act failed in December. For example, at a news conference announcing that he would not seek re-election next cycle, Sen. Jon Kyl told the Arizona Republic on February 11, that immigration reform is “one of the top items on the agenda” and said there may be an opportunity in the next two years “to tackle that in a productive way.” Yet, in a subsequent interview Sen. Kyl backtracked, saying that he was not referring to “comprehensive” immigration reform and that going down such a road again would be a “dead-end.” Other Senators not seeking re-election in 2012 include Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jim Webb of Virginia and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
Senator Graham and Schumer’s efforts come on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union Address where he urged members of Congress to “address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows.” But, even with the support of the White House and the Senate, it is doubtful that an amnesty bill by Graham and Schumer would survive in the House this legislative session. Such a bill would likely have to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith an ardent supporter of immigration enforcement. At a House Immigration Subcommittee hearing last fall, Smith stated: “Some people say that we need to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S., but citizenship is the greatest honor our country can bestow. It shouldn’t be sold to lawbreakers for the price of a fine.” “Amnesty will enable illegal workers to depress wages and take jobs away from American citizens and legal immigrants,” he said. We could see an amnesty bill if democrats move on enforcement. Stay tuned.