Thursday, December 22, 2005
Some of the toughest, most radical anti-immigration proposals in the nation hit the floor of the House of Representatives late last week as some Republicans pushed hard to legislate a crack down on undocumented immigrants.
Thanks to the efforts of hard-line legislators like Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-San Diego, several amendments to a sweeping anti-immigration bill were debated fiercely. Most Democrats, including Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, lashed out against most of the bill’s language and ensuing amendments. But a large number of moderate Republicans also broke ranks with the majority, producing a bitter, drawn-out battle on the House floor.
The bill was expected to pass the House on Dec. 16, past the Weekly’s deadline.
The original bill, introduced by Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, calls for requiring every employer in the US to check the legal status of their workers against a database managed by the Department of Homeland Security.
A separate proposal added to the bill—but only after much cajoling within Republican ranks—would make felons out of the nation’s approximately 10 million undocumented immigrants. Currently, being an illegal immigrant is a civil offense.
Other amendments would require local law enforcement personnel to take on the role of immigration officers, as well as the construction of about 700 miles of wall along the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border.
Farr spoke on the House floor and blasted both the bill’s language as well as the visceral, anti-immigrant climate in the House, which he says reached a new low last week.
“I’ve never seen this kind of ugliness of discontent,” Farr says. “American history shows periods when we turn on the hatred valve, and this is one of them.”
Farr says that the immigration bill’s amendment that requires local law officials to start asking people for their immigration status is unconstitutional and limits the effectiveness of police investigations.
The immigration bill debated in the House is expected to have a much harder time passing in the Senate, where a moderate tone on immigration issues still prevails.
Farr warned that even though a majority in Congress favors some type of guest-worker program for undocumented immigrants, the worst of the anti-immigrant rhetoric may be yet to come.
“There are rumors in Washington that Republican campaign consultants want to use the immigration issue as a flashpoint campaign issue,” Farr says. “That they want to stir the flames.”
Meanwhile, Mexican officials released new figures last week showing that 451 Mexicans died attempting to cross the US-Mexico border in 2005. In 2004, the figure was 369.
Percent of Americans that have a separate bank account where they save money for holiday shopping. Source: Harris Interactive-Bank of America.