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  1. #1
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    Apr 2006

    Immigration Bill All but Assured ... rospects_3

    Analysis: Immigration Bill All but Assured By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
    Fri May 12, 12:46 AM ET

    WASHINGTON - After months of partisan maneuvering, Senate passage of sweeping immigration legislation is virtually assured by Memorial Day. But that scarcely ends the struggle in Congress, given the vast differences between President Bush and House Republicans over the fate of millions of illegal immigrants.

    The substance of the Senate bill is unlikely to change significantly from the measure that was stuck in gridlock more than a month ago. It includes additional border security, a new guest worker program and provisions opening the way to eventual citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

    What changed was that after weeks of exchanging insults, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., agreed on a procedural compromise that gives the bill's critics ample opportunity to offer amendments. It also offers assurances to Democrats that Senate negotiators will not simply capitulate to demands of House conservatives in talks on compromise legislation later in the year.

    However briefly, nearly everyone seemed pleased.

    "We congratulate the Senate on reaching agreement and we look forward to passage of a bill prior to Memorial Day," said Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary. Reid and Frist exchanged compliments on the Senate floor. Mexico's foreign secretary said in a statement that the deal was a "positive step toward the approval of a migration accord."

    Everyone but House Republicans, many of whom criticize the Senate's bill as an amnesty measure. And possibly House Democrats, who, ironically enough, seem to share the White House view of the political implications of immigration. They are eager to campaign against Republicans responsible for last year's bill to make all illegal immigrants subject to felony charges.

    Looking ahead, the White House is searching for ways to assure conservatives that Bush understands their concerns. White House strategist Karl Rove met with lawmakers earlier in the week, and at least one session included a discussion about making greater use of National Guard troops to shore up border security.

    "Nobody is suggesting that we put troops on the border," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (news, bio, voting record), R-Tenn., who attended the session. "We are suggesting there are plenty of resources in the government" to increase border security, at least in an interim period while provisions in the pending legislation take hold, he said.

    "The National Guard can in some cases help do that," he added. Other lawmakers said they expected Bush to announce border security improvements next week, possibly in a speech in Arizona or another border states.

    The differences between Bush and House Republicans flared dramatically when the Senate appeared on the verge of agreement on a comprehensive bill several weeks ago. Several GOP conservatives denounced the bill as an amnesty measure and Rep. Steve King (news, bio, voting record) of Iowa said anyone who voted for it should be "branded with a scarlet letter A."

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (news, bio, voting record), R-Calif., offered his view of the importance of immigrant labor: "I say let the prisoners pick the fruits."

    In political terms, Rep. J.D. Hayworth (news, bio, voting record) of Arizona and others said Republicans would pay a price in the midterm elections if they vote for anything like the Senate legislation. "Many of those who have stood for the Republican Party for the last decade are not only angry. They will be absent in November," Hayworth said.

    Given Bush's recent erosion of support among conservatives, as measured in polls, there's been no evident change in sentiment among his congressional critics.

    The political calculations are different at the White House. Hispanics comprise the nation's fastest growing minority, according to this line of reasoning, and no political party can afford to be seen as blind or even hostile to their concerns and the desire of their relatives to join them in the United States.

    Bush and top House Republicans reviewed the issue last week at a private White House meeting, according to several officials, and the president urged the GOP congressional leadership to embrace his call for comprehensive legislation. That means provisions to strengthen border security, coupled with a guest worker program that — while the president doesn't say so in public — provides a chance at citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. and other leaders stressed that would be a hard sell with their rank and file. Bush restated his desire for a comprehensive bill, and the leadership responded by noting the sentiment of the rank and file, according to officials familiar with the conversation. They spoke on condition of anonymity, given the private nature of the meetings.

  2. #2
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    Apr 2006

    U.S. May Expand Fences on Mexico Border

    U.S. May Expand Fences on Mexico Border

    U.S. May Expand Fences on Mexico Border By JACQUES BILLEAUD, Associated Press Writer
    Fri May 12, 7:41 AM ET

    DOUGLAS, Ariz. - Much of this dusty city along the border is separated from Mexico by a fence consisting of 12-foot vertical metal bars, spaced inches apart to prevent illegal immigrants from squeezing through.

    Surveillance cameras are mounted on towers nearby, and Border Patrol agents posted hundreds of feet away in the desert scrub and flowering ocotillo watch for anyone who might try to scale, cut through, slip under or sneak around the fence.

    Though these fences are criticized for shifting would-be border-crossers to more dangerous and remote spots, they do make it harder for illegal immigrants to reach urban areas where they can slip into a car and head for the nation's interior to find work.

    Now, as Washington seeks to overhaul America's broken immigration policies, Congress is considering putting many more such barriers along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, which already has 83 miles of fences.

    A bill that cleared the House in December would put fences at immigrant- and drug-smuggling corridors in all four southern border states. At an estimated cost of $2.5 billion, the fences would cover 850 miles of border — roughly one-fifth the length of the Great Wall of China — though it would not be one continuous wall.

    The gaps would be policed the way many remote areas of the border are already guarded now: with motion sensors, cameras, unmanned drone aircraft and Border Patrol agents.

    Among other things, House legislation calls for a mostly continuous 392-mile fence from Calexico, Calif., to Douglas. The second-largest piece would be a largely uninterrupted 305-mile segment in the Texas brush country from Laredo to Brownsville, a corridor used by cocaine smugglers.

    Immigrant rights groups say fences waste taxpayer money because would-be border-crossers who are desperate to earn a better living in America will always find a way around or through barriers, as evidenced by the lower sections of the fence in Douglas, where rods have had to be welded into place to patch up breaches.

    Even some proponents say erecting fences, without using other border enforcement efforts, will not stop illegal immigrants.

    "All by itself, it's not a magic solution," said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors limiting immigration.

    But the Border Patrol says fences slow down immigrants so authorities can have enough time to respond to those who try to come across. That, in turn, frees up other agents to focus on remote areas, where they already use aircraft and ground sensors.

    "Fencing by itself is not effective, but not having a fence is not effective either," added Sen. Jon Kyl (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz.

    Advocates for beefing up border security said a 14-mile fence near San Diego, once the country's most prolific smuggling center, shows that barriers work. The fence there is made of corrugated metal sheets previously used as landing surfaces for military aircraft. Behind it is a second fence, made of tightly woven mesh.

    Within that area, the barrier is credited with dramatically reducing the flow of illegal immigrants.

    Rep. Duncan Hunter (news, bio, voting record), a California Republican who is the leading voice in Congress for more fences, said the costs of building fences are much lower than the government expenses associated with illegal immigration, including huge sums spent on incarcerating immigrants convicted of crimes in the United States.

    Opponents say there are some costly consequences as well. Immigrant rights advocates say fences prompt migrants to cross in remote areas where they face dangerous obstacles, such as rivers where some drown, deserts where some succumb to the heat, and mountains where some are injured or die.

    Also, a large-scale fence could force immigrants to remain in the country longer, while in the past they came to earn money and then returned home, said Angela Kelley, deputy director of the pro-immigrant National Immigration Forum.

    "If it's riskier and harder, people don't leave," said Kelley, who believes a guest worker program will reduce illegal crossings.

    In Douglas, Louis Hahn, a retiree who tends horses on his ranch, said the fence reduces traffic through the city. But he said it is simplistic to think that a huge physical barrier will trump the economic forces that prompt fathers to leave their families and risk their lives for a chance at a better life.

    "You have got to put yourself in the position of the man crossing the border and what he's willing to take," Hahn said.


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