Napolitano reschedules testimony as Democrats defend immigration bill

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The Senate’s judiciary committee has quickly rescheduled testimony from homeland security director Janet Napolitano for Tuesday, only four days after the Boston terror strikes prompted her to withdraw from the first hearing on Friday, April 19.

She withdrew from the televised hearing while the nation’s media intensively covered the pursuit of two Chechen immigrants who are suspected of setting off bomb’s at last Monday’s Boston marathon.

The sudden blast has pushed proponents of the bill on the defensive, partly because the attacks provide a easy way for opponents to criticize the bill without directly clashing with home-state employers, high-tech donors or the growing Latino population.

Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy protested the Boston-related criticism at the committee’s second hearing on Monday, which featured a long list of 20 witnesses.

“Let no one be so cruel as to use the heinous act … to derail the dreams and future of of millions of hard-working people,” he said.

Opponents are using the bomb attack as an “excuse” to stall the bill, said Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has led the effort to write the bill.

That charge prompted a loud rebuke from Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Jeff Sessions, two leading GOP opponents of the bill.

The hearing on Monday is scheduled to showcase 20 witnesses.

Most witnesses are from business groups that support the sections of the bill that boost the inflow of company-sponsored workers into the U.S. economy.

The inflow will provide farmers and companies with a steady supply of immigrant labor for harvesting crops, said advocates for the agriculture industry.

“This is not just a few national specialist interests… they represent tens of millions of people,” said Schumer.

Schumer also slammed the five witnesses who are expected to speak against the bill.

But Sessions said the bill will hurt American workers.

Americans’ wages “have been pulled down — no doubt — by a large flow of labor. [and] this bill would continue that,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate banking committee. “We need to ask what is in the national interest,” he said.

The Joint Economic Committee, which includes Senators and Representatives, is slated to hold a hearing May 8. However, Schumer has said he hopes the judiciary committee will have started voting on the bill by early May.

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