Monday, November 16, 2009

Napolitano: Overhaul Immigration Law Early Next Year

"Immigrant Bill Is Back on Table"
"Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called Friday for Congress to consider an overhaul of immigration law early next year, a move that could rekindle a divisive debate during an election year.

Ms. Napolitano said the immigration landscape has changed sharply since 2007, when attempts at a comprehensive overhaul failed because many members of Congress lacked confidence in the government's ability to enforce existing laws, she said. Immigration overhauls backed by the Bush administration and some congressional leaders from both parties foundered in part because critics portrayed them as rewarding illegal immigrants with 'amnesty' for violating U.S. law.
Since then, government statistics show a 23% drop in the number of illegal immigrants caught trying to enter the U.S. in the past year, and a 67% decline since 2000, a trend Ms. Napolitano attributed to the weak economy and stronger enforcement. The government has also stepped up efforts to audit employers' compliance with immigration laws, she said...
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.), who will lead the effort to pass an immigration bill in the House, said he plans to introduce a bill in December, working with the Hispanic Congressional Caucus. 'There's going to be a big battle,' he said. Mr. Gutierrez disagreed with Ms. Napolitano's claim that more government enforcement has improved the chances of a comprehensive overhaul. 'We've always had strong enforcement,' he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), who will lead the overhaul effort in the Senate with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), said his office is working to produce 'a tough, fair bill' that can get 60 votes in the Senate. 'The administration has laid out a very ambitious agenda, but we are confident we can have a bipartisan immigration bill ready to go under whatever timeline the President thinks is best,' he said in a statement.

One of the toughest issues is likely to be what to do about millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. Ms. Napolitano called for a 'tough and fair pathway to earned legal status,' including 'registering, paying a fine, passing a criminal background check, fully paying all taxes and learning English.'

Not included in her list was a requirement that illegal immigrants leave the country, and re-apply for legal entry. In 2007, many members of Congress said they couldn't support a program of mass legalization in the face of opposition from constituents and activist groups critical of easing the road to legal immigration for those who had already violated the law."

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