By Gail Russell Chaddock
Why the Senate's immigration 'breakthrough' failed
Fri Apr 7, 2006 20:01


The Christian Science Monitor

Why the Senate's immigration 'breakthrough' failed

Lawmakers, deeply divided on both sides of the aisle, will take up the debate
after their two-week recess.


By Gail Russell Chaddock | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - After a brief breakthrough on Thursday, the Senate gave up on
reaching agreement on immigration reform before its two-week recess.

The immediate cause was procedural: Democratic leader Harry Reid refused to
allow votes on amendments that Republicans said were necessary to complete the
bill. So, all 54 Republicans and six Democrats voted to block a key vote on the

But, in fact, the problem was political. Divisions over this bill run deep
through both parties - and members on both sides of the aisle say the Senate
needs more time to work though differences. And with massive pro-immigration
demonstrations expected nationwide on Monday, Republican and Democratic
lawmakers are keenly aware of the effect their votes could have in November's
elections. An immigration crackdown could mobilize millions of angry Hispanic
voters. A more lenient approach could provoke a backlash from voters who oppose
any form of amnesty.

On Thursday, senators thought they had crafted a compromise that would fly with
both camps.

"We have a product that is a good product and has the support of more than 60
senators. It takes care of our needs on the border and deals in a very practical
way with what to do with those already in our country," says Sen. Mel Martinez
(R) of Florida, the only immigrant currently serving in the Senate. He and Sen.
Chuck Hagel (R) of Nebraska drafted the compromise plan that produced hopes for
a breakthrough Thursday.

The compromise, endorsed by leaders on both sides of the aisle Thursday, would
have established a path to legalization for some of at least 11 million
immigrants already in the United States illegally. Those who had been in the US
more than five years could stay and earn citizenship. Those here between two and
five years could file for a temporary work visa, but would have to return to
their country of origin to process it. And those here less than two years would
have to return home and stand in line with others seeking legal entry.

The revised package still included enhanced border security and a new guest
worker program - key elements of an earlier bill passed by the Senate Judiciary

"It's important for the American people to know how much bipartisan support
there really is for this bill," said Senate majority leader Bill Frist, after a
vote to end debate on the bill. The motion, which required 60 votes to pass,
failed 38-60.

In the end, the compromise foundered over amendments to the bill. For nearly two
weeks, Democrats had blocked all but three amendments on the bill. More than 400
had been proposed. In a last bid to break the deadlock, Senator First proposed
limiting amendments to 20. Democratic leader Harry Reid objected. "The
amendments were being offered by people who didn't want the bill," he said.

Looking ahead, Democrats also worried that if the Senate produced a bill too far
from the comprehensive reform that emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee,
that a final bill would get watered down in conference negotiations with the
GOP-controlled House.

"Democrats couldn't afford to buy a pig in a poke," says Sen. Ken Salazar (D) of
Colorado. "If we went to conference, we would have probably gotten something
like the [House] bill back."

Speaking after the vote that derailed the deal, Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of
the Judiciary Committee, blamed Democrats for using Senate procedures to block
votes on amendments. "We must take a very, very hard look at abusive practices
in the US Senate," he said.

After the Senate returns from a two-week break, the Judiciary Committee will
take up consideration of the bill, he added. He said the Judiciary panel could
have a bill ready for renewed floor debate in 10 days. Senator Frist, who as
majority leader controls the timing of bills on the floor of the Senate, did not
commit to a date to reconsider the bill.

The White House is urging both sides in Congress to reach agreement. "I'm
confident that we can change our immigration system in ways that secures our
border, respects the rule of law, and, as importantly, upholds the decency of
our country," said President Bush at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on

Several senators vowed to keep looking for a way through the political thicket.

"We will continue, if not today, then tomorrow and the days ahead, because the
battle must go on," said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts, a lead
sponsor of an alternative compromise. "We'll try again, and hopefully we can
learn from this debate," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, also a
member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.



Govt. Tracking: RFID & NAIS
Consumer privacy expert Katherine Albrecht, joined by activists Pat Showalter and Celeste Bishop in hour two, spoke out against the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), a USDA plan to track farm animals using RFID chips. Showalter and Bishop, who both own animals in a small scale, non-commercial capacity, said the new regulations are very burdensome for small farmers. For instance, the "Premises Identification" part of the plan requires owners to report any movements or visitors of the animals, even in the case of a few chickens and goats. The cost and time for such monitoring is prohibitive and also an invasion of their privacy, they argued.
Technology is being used to clamp down and control food in general, said Albrecht, who compared the NAIS plan to the tracking done with grocery loyalty cards, and the efforts to restrict farmers' rights to seeds. In regards to the NAIS, she hoped that small farmers will refuse to comply with the plan, as she believes it does nothing to make the food supply safer (the stated goal of the program), and it discourages self-sufficiency.
Further, the RFID chips, used to track the animals, and recently introduced in passports, are susceptible to hackers who can infect large databases with malicious viruses, she pointed out. The bigger picture is that the government is seeking a top down control of the populace on a global level, and there is "a move afoot to number everything and everyone," said Albrecht. However, she finds that US citizens are more prone to resisting these efforts than Europeans, and that the NAIS may be the issue that wakes people up.
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"You can run, but you may not be able to hide. Not just from Big Brother, but Big Business, writes Katherine Albrecht in her book Spychips, a detailed analysis of how Radio Frequency Identification technology -- RFID for short -- threatens to erode the last vestiges of our privacy."

Hackers could deploy rogue RFID tags programmed with a virus to wreak havoc on associated databases... Countermeasures will "take time, people, and money to implement."
>> click here to read more!

Spychips RFID Blog
Time to buy a flyswatter
The Pentagon wants to insert RF equipment into insects at the larval stage, so they'll pupate into hard-shelled surveillance drones, maneuverable by remote control.

Retired CIA Official Says Bush Is A War Criminal

An in-depth interview with former high-level CIA analyst Ray McGovern; McGovern talks about his work as an advisor to Bush 1 and his belief that Bush 2 is a war criminal and should be tried for crimes against humanity.
Transmission date: 04/03/06 Flashpoints

Main Page - Monday, 04/10/06

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