Politics

Sessions, GOP allies ask for hearings on secret immigration bill

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and five other Republican senators are trying to stop the Senate’s Democratic leaders from rushing a huge business-backed amnesty and guest-worker bill through the Senate before it can be debated by the public.

On March 19, Sessions and the other senators sent a letter asking Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, to schedule hearings on the complex bill.

“We respectfully request that the public be given adequate time, consistent with past practice in handling complex comprehensive immigration legislation, to read and analyze the contents of the any such bill” before it is approved by the majority-Democratic panel, said the letter.

The letter was signed by six GOP committee members: Sessions, plus Sens. Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. It was not signed by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake, two committee members who are helping to write the controversial measure.

So far, the draft bill is being kept hidden until the Spring recess ends in the first week of April. Major media outlets have given little coverage of the bill’s contents and likely impact on Americans.

In 2006 and 2007, numerous public protests derailed a similar amnesty and guest-worker bill that was backed by executives, progressives and the White House.

The Democratic leadership controls the timing of the voting process. They could pass a bill with the help of just a few Republican senators.

The Democrats are likely to have the support of at least four Republicans senators, including Sens. Graham, Flake, Marco Rubio and John McCain. All are part of the group of eight Senators who are now drafting the potentially nation-changing law.

If the bill passes the Senate, and if the House also passes even a small immigration bill, the GOP and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate likely will be able to strong-arm passage of a merged bill, even if it includes controversial amnesty and guest-worker provisions.

The bill is expected to include an amnesty for at least 11 million low-skill immigrants and put them and their foreign relatives on “a path to citizenship.” It would also provide work permits to many additional foreign workers.

Currently, roughly 20 million Americans now lack full-scale employment, and approximately 90,000 Americans graduate from school and enter the job market each month. Also, many Americans with jobs have seen their wages stagnate amid competition from unemployed workers.

The complex bill is expected to be hundreds of pages long, and include many hard-to-spot provisions that benefit ethnic advocates, companies and progressive groups. Immigration lawyers are also expected to gain from the bill, partly because it will spur demand for their expertise.

In 2010, progressives used strong-arm tactics to pass the Obamacare bill, which gave them effective control over nation’s medical sector, or roughly 14 percent of the economy.

However, Sessions and the GOP senators can stop a bill if they hold most of their GOP caucus together, and also win over a few Democratic senators facing re-election in swing states.

Also, Democratic senators, such as Sen. Tom Harkin, may vote against critical parts of the bill if the business-backed guest-workers programs are viewed as too damaging to employed and unemployed Americans.