Immigration plan blasted on both sides


NORTH COUNTY -- Local activists and lawmakers roundly criticized Thursday's bipartisan Senate agreement on comprehensive immigration reform.

The agreement would give millions of immigrants living in the country illegally the opportunity to become legal residents. It would also increase security at the border, toughen sanctions against employers of illegal immigrants and create a guest-worker program.

The agreement, reached by a group of about a dozen Republican and Democratic senators working behind closed doors with White House officials, was slammed in North County by both the political right and the left.

Some immigrant rights advocates said they were concerned about the barriers that illegal immigrants would face when trying to become legal residents under the proposal.

"There's just too much red tape," said Tina Jillings, a Vista resident and founder of the pro-immigrant group Coalition for Justice, Peace and Dignity. "There is nothing humane or comprehensive about it."

The proposal would allow illegal immigrants who arrived in the country before Jan. 1 of this year to apply for a temporary residency permit. They could then apply for a new type of visa that would allow them to live and work legally in the country.

The visa could be renewed for as long as the immigrant submits to a criminal background check, keeps a job and pays a $5,000 fine plus processing fees. For a family to become official permanent legal residents, the head of the household would have to return to the home country first. That process could take eight to 13 years.

Some lawmakers said that immigrants who broke the law by coming illegally would be rewarded under the plan.

"There is no way you're going to control immigration while you're telling the world you are going to reward illegal immigrants," said Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, who has emerged as one of the leading voices against illegal immigration in Congress.

Other local political leaders said they like the plan's other provisions, including its emphasis on skills-based immigration and guest-worker program.

"The Senate proposal outlined today contains a number of welcome provisions," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, in a written statement.

He added however, that those changes "are compromised by a sweeping amnesty proposal that places illegal aliens in line ahead of those (who) ... emigrate to the United States legally."

Escondido Councilman Sam Abed, a naturalized citizen from Lebanon, said he agreed. He said his brother has been waiting 17 years in Lebanon to be allowed to come into the country legally.

"The only thing that I am totally opposed to (about the proposal) is the amnesty," Abed said. "It's disrespectful to legal immigrants."

-- Contact staff writer Edward Sifuentes at (760) 740-3511 or ... _17_07.txt
Proposed Senate agreement on immigration reform A bipartisan group of senators announced Thursday an agreement on comprehensive immigration reform that will serve as the basis for a bill. President Bush announced his support for the agreement. Here are some key provisions:

Illegal immigrants: Illegal immigrants would be eligible for temporary residency permits while they apply for new visas. The visa would allow them to work and live legally here. Heads of households would be required to return to their home countries in order to apply for permanent legal residency. The visas would be renewable for as long as the person clears a criminal background check, remains employed and pays a $5,000 fine.

Temporary Guest Worker Program: The guest worker program would allow up to 400,000 migrants come to the U.S. and work. The visas would be good for two years and can be renewed up to three times if the recipient returns home between renewals.

Enforcement: Under the plan, 18,000 new Border Patrol agents would be hired, 370 miles of additional border fences would be built, and an employee verification system would be implemented.

Future immigration: About one third of future immigrants will be judged on a "point system" that factors in preferences for work skills that benefit the U.S. economy, as well as extended family ties. Spouses of U.S. citizens and their children under 21 years old would get preferential treatment.

-- Staff and wire reports

Comments On This Story

Note: Comments reflect the views of readers and not necessarily those of the North County Times or its staff.

GFN wrote on May 17, 2007 10:38 PM: " Watch...the local "lawmakers" will weep and wail, but dollars to donuts, they will all vote for it. Each will have a lame excuse for going against what they said, but hey, that's politics! Just ask Wolfowitz, and Gonzales, and Frist, and Cunningham, and on and on and on.... "

Escondeeter wrote on May 17, 2007 10:40 PM: " It's a little hard to criticize the plan without knowing what's in it. Notwithstanding the press reports, the language of the proposed bill is still being drafted, and the word on the street is that public won't be able to read it until after it's been voted on. (Nice representative Government we have, huh?) At the moment, all the public has to go on is a general outline. The real impact will be found in the detais "

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