Immigration bill to be released day before hearing

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The “Gang of Eight” senators will release their immigration bill on Tuesday, just one day before the only scheduled hearing, according to news reports, bolstering GOP charges that advocates are planning to rush the controversial bill through the Senate before the public knows what is in it.

The bill is to be released April 16, according to a Friday report by The Associated Press.

The next day, before other senators have time to understand what is in the complex bill, Vermont Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy is slated to hold an April 17 hearing with one witness, Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano.

There is no evidence that Democrats plan to hold additional hearings that would help senators — and Americans — to get testimony from immigration, police and wage experts about the workability and impact of the bill, which reportedly includes more than 1,000 pages.

The Democrats’ blitz has prompted protests and requests for additional hearings from GOP Senators, including Alabama Sen. Jess Sessions, the ranking chairman of the Senate’s budget committee.

“While the Gang has not briefed lawmakers or the Judiciary Committee about their plan, they have leaked details to the press which seem to confirm [Democratic] Senator [Chuck] Schumer’s recent declaration that ‘First, people will be legalized … Then, we will make sure the border is secure,'” said a Thursday statement from Sessions’ office.

But Sen. John McCain, one of the four GOP members of the gang, said they are in no rush to push the bill through.

“We don’t see anything really coming to the [Senate] floor before, at the earliest, sometime in May,” McCain told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Thursday.

“We want to give it plenty of time.”

May is three weeks away.

The rush has also put Sen. Marco Rubio in a political vice.

He is one of four GOP senators who helped drafted the bill, but he earlier said he didn’t want to be part of process that would rush a bill through the Senate.

“I don’t want to be part of a process that comes up with some bill in secret and brings it to the floor and gives people a take it or leave it,” he told Rush Limbaugh’s listeners Jan. 29. “I want this place to work the way it’s supposed to work, with every senator having input and the public having input.”

During April, Rubio asked Democrats in the gang, including Schumer, for extra hearings but was rebuffed.

Sen. Lindsey Graham has repeatedly suggested that only one hearing is needed.

McCain said April 11 he supported Rubio’s call for more hearings. Despite McCain’s critical role in the process, there is no sign that his verbal support has persuaded Democrats to hold additional hearings in any Senate committees.

Despite the apparent failure to get additional hearings, Rubio will campaign hard for passage of the still-secret bill by making the case to conservative talk shows and mainstream media outlets, according to an April 12 report in Politico.

McCain, the chief author of the failed 2006 immigration rewrite, complimented Rubio’s role in the process.

“Marco Rubio has been incredibly important in this whole process we’ve been through,” McCain told Van Susteren.

He “has done a great job in talking to people like you, and other talk show hosts,” McCain said. “It’s important.”

The bill is one of President Barack Obama’s top priorities. It is strongly supported by many progressive groups, ethnic lobbies and numerous business groups, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Partnership for a New American Economy, plus many hired lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

Obama has kept a low profile on the issue, partly because his participation spurs GOP opposition.

Many GOP and Democratic politicians oppose aspects of the bill.

It will reportedly provide conditional legalization to 11 million illegals, and allow companies to annually bring roughly 1 million foreigners into the country to take blue-collar and white-collar jobs at low wages in the professional, manufacturing, construction, retail, restaurant and hotel sectors.

The bill may also bring in more than 250,000 low-wage farm-workers, and allow them to apply for the valuable prize of citizenship after several years, according to The Associated Press.

Limited-immigration groups, such as NumbersUSA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, are expected to rally public opposition to the bill.

Roughly 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Partly because of immigration, the wages of most Americans have stalled or shrunk since 1990, widening the wage gap between blue-collar workers and professionals.

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