Friday, May 18, 2007
Martinez Role in Immigration Reform Supports Bush; Romney Opposes
Immigrants and their advocates in South Florida on Thursday greeted a Senate pact that could lead to the legalization of millions of undocumented migrants with tempered optimism.
They lauded the progress but said they're worried that achieving lawful U.S. residence under the proposal may be too onerous, that a shift in preferences away from family-based migration could split up families and that a new temporary worker program could create a permanently exploited underclass.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat and a principal in the negotiations, said the bill would provide "a historic opportunity" for undocumented workers. It would allow them to stop living "in the shadows" and remove their fear of deportation, he said.
Immigrant rights advocates said they viewed the compromise as a good starting point -- but voiced concerns about what they called excessive fines and the length of time immigrants might have to wait to qualify for residency.
Democratic leaders were leery of three pivotal concessions to the conservatives. The first would make illegal immigrants' access to long-term visas and the new guest-worker program contingent upon the implementation of the border crackdown.
Another sticking point came from the proposed replacement of an immigration system primarily designed to reunify families with a point system that would give new emphasis to skills and education. Automatic family-reunification visas would no longer apply to the adult siblings and children of U.S. citizens, and visas for parents would be capped.
Finally, immigrants coming into the country under the temporary work program would have to leave when their permits expire, with no chance to appeal for permanent residence. Labor unions say such a system would depress wages and create an underclass.
Mitt Romney issued a statement criticizing the bill. "Any legislation that allows illegal immigrants to stay in the country indefinitely . . . is unfair to the millions of people who have applied to legally immigrate to the US," said Romney, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination.
Dan Stein of the conservative group Federation for American Immigration Reform said Martinez is doing the bidding of an "obstinate" Bush who is walking the Republican Party "off a cliff" in a misguided attempt to attract Hispanic voters."
at 7:01 AM