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2 senators' views on immigration reform

Jul. 24, 2005 12:00 AM

Arizona's two senators, Republicans John McCain and Jon Kyl, are to be opening witnesses on Tuesday when the Senate's Judiciary Committee holds its long-awaited hearing on comprehensive immigration reform.

The two Arizonans are sponsors of competing bills.

In May, McCain teamed with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and others to offer a bipartisan guest-worker bill, under which those working in the country illegally could remain after paying fines.

Kyl last week unveiled his Republican-only bill with Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

The Kyl-Cornyn approach regarding an estimated more than 10 million undocumented immigrants already in the country would be to require them to sign up for a "mandatory departure" program before they could apply to legally return. Those who step forward could choose stay in the country up to five years before leaving.

Whether Tuesday's hearing and testimony will move the Senate - and the entire Congress - closer to reaching an agreement on immigration reform on a bill is uncertain; Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has said any successful bill would have to be bipartisan, and that he doubts any such agreement could be reached this year.

Still, the hearing should provide some interesting moments.

Kennedy and Cornyn are scheduled to appear alongside McCain and Kyl on the opening slate of witnesses before the Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. Kyl, Cornyn and Kennedy are all members of the Judiciary Committee.

McCain last week remained cordial when asked to respond to his fellow Arizonan's competing bill. His office issuing a statement that he welcomes "all parties to the debate on immigration reform."

But Kennedy was more direct. In a statement, Kennedy said: "Immigration reform is urgently needed, but the mass deportation of illegal immigrant persons as contemplated by the Cornyn-Kyl bill is not a realistic solution, and won't solve the security and economic problems we face."

Other witness scheduled for the hearing Tuesday include Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; Labor Secretary Elaine Chao; Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute; and Hal Daub, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association.

- Billy House

Reach the reporter at billy or at 1 (202) 906-8136.