Sessions, GOP allies ask for hearings on secret immigration bill

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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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.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing for guest-worker rules that would allow companies to bring in 400,000 workers every year.

In combination with existing immigration programs, the chamber’s goals could ensure that one new foreign worker would be imported every two Americans who graduate from school or college.

Unions are pushing to cut that 400,000 number to under 100,000, but are also demanding that guest-workers be eventually allowed citizenship.

“We have an obligation to adopt an immigration policy that serves the national interest, not the special interests – whether those special interests are open borders advocacy groups, large corporations or the political establishment,” Sessions said in a statement to The Daily Caller.

“The consequences are simply too profound for American workers and taxpayers to rush through some thousand page amnesty bill to passage only to find out what’s in it later … [and] such an approach would violate the fundamental principles of our Democratic Republic.”

The committee has held only two hearings on immigration since February, although a third is planned for March 20, said the letter.

“We believe that hearings are necessary to examine implementation of the [bill’s] components … especially given that 43 current members of the Senate were not here during the last debate in 2007,” said the letter.

“We believe [hearings are needed] to ensure and fair and open process so that the American people know what is in any such bill,” the letter said.

However, the letter acknowledged that the Democrats’ power to push a bill towards a final vote without any hearings.

“The last time Congress considered legislation this magnitude that was written behind closed doors and passed with no process, it resulted in sweeping changes to our healthcare system,” said the letter.

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