Dems unveil plan for immigration reform that GOP calls ‘cynical’ ploy

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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The GOP says immigration reform won’t happen this year, but New York Democrat Chuck Schumer and other Democrats unveiled the framework for comprehensive immigration legislation they say can be passed with Republican help.

Schumer, who took the lead on drafting the framework for the type immigration reform Democrats want, took issue during a Thursday press conference off the Senate floor with the “pundits, columnists, reporters” who have said passage of reform is impossible.

“I completely disagree,” Schumer said of the media prognosis. The senator, blasting the recent state law that’s tough on illegal immigrants in Arizona, called on Republicans to work on getting a bill passed, arguing “the urgency for immigration reform could not be overstated.”

Schumer. along with Majority Leader Harry Reid, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, unveiled a Democratic draft of ideas Thursday afternoon for a comprehensive reform bill that includes first controlling the border and then establishing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country.

Republicans have accused Democrats of pushing immigration reform ahead of November’s midterm elections to wedge a gap between the party and Hispanics, knowing any bill is unlikely to pass and failure can be blamed on the Republicans. Earlier on Thursday, Republican House leader John Boehner flatly said a comprehensive immigration will not go far this year, as the political environment will be too charged during election season.

“There’s not a chance immigration reform is going to pass through Congress,” Boehner said, pointing out that President Obama has made similar statements showing he’s doubtful a bipartisan bill could pass this year.

Obama on Thursday appeared to be backing away, saying in a statement “that the proposal outlined today in the Senate is a very important step in the process of fixing our nation’s broken immigration system.”

Boehner called Democrats moving to work on immigration reform “nothing more than a cynical ploy to try to engage voters, some segment of voters, to show up in this November’s election.”

Reid’s spokesman Rodell Mollineau, in an e-mail to The Daily Caller, disputed the notion that the proposal is about alienating Republicans from Hispanic voters. “The GOP is doing a good enough job of that without Democratic help,” he said. “Congressman Boehner and others should take a hard look at what is being proposed before attacking.”

Yet a Democratic House committee staffer, according to TPM’s Christina Bellantoni, acknowledged the election year political motivations for introducing an immigration bill, saying Republicans who block the bill “will forever cement themselves as rural, white angry party.”

The staffer said “Reid obviously needs it to invigorate his base … and one way to do that is to get an immigration bill moving.”

New Jersey’s Menendez, during the conference, struck an emotional tone, saying he hopes Americans will be honest with themselves over the role of immigrants in society. “This morning if you had breakfast — and you had fruit for breakfast — it was probably picked by the bent back of an immigrant worker. If you had chicken for dinner, it was probably plucked by a pair of hands of an immigrant worker.”

With the Democrats’ framework being announced, a number of groups immediately begun to voice concerns: Service Employees International Union (SEIU) leader Eliseo Medina released a statement saying the union appreciates Democrats starting the process for a reform bill, but acknowledged it “needs serious fixes to provide the immigration solutions America needs.”

“As the eyes of the world focus on Arizona, it is clear that we need balanced, practical immigration solutions more than ever,” said Medina, referencing a recently passed state law in the Western state targeting illegal immigrants.

The SEIU, Medina said, wants a “bill that gets undocumented immigrants into the system and under the rule of law; passes smart enforcement on the border and in our workplaces; and creates a visa system that protects labor rights and meets the economic needs of our future.”

Others who reacted to the immigration framework included Tea Partiers. One group, Tea Party Nation, sent e-mails pleading with supporters to “Burn up the phones and faxes” and “Call your representatives and senators” to tell them not to support “amnesty” legislation.

“As predicted, they are now going for a ‘path to citizenship’ (aka amnesty) for illegal immigrants,” the e-mail, whose subject screamed “Red Alert,” said of the Democrats.

Opponents of the Arizona state law have called for boycotting the state in protest, including the city of San Francisco. Some conservatives are even counter-protesting, encouraging supporters to spend money at Arizona stores in a “BUYcott” of the state.

Feinstein of California, asked if she supports the San Francisco boycott, said she does “not think that’s the thing to do,” saying the proper way to battle the law is through congressional action.

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