Since the death of Comprehensive Immigration Bill in June 2007, there
is a concern that there will be no another CIR legislation at least
until a new administration moves into the White House in 2009. Such
negative prospect for the Comprehensive Immigration Bill has triggered
a move in the Congress to resolve the immigration legislation on a
Three week ago, the Senate approved $3 billion for border security as
part of a Homeland Security Department spending bill. Democrats and
Republicans have also begun laying ground for a bill to create a new
temporary immigrant worker program for agriculture. Another bill, also
with bipartisan support, would give a path to citizenship to high
school graduates who are illegal immigrants if they complete two years
of college or military service. Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of
Illinois and a sponsor of the bill, attached it as an amendment to the
military authorization legislation that the Senate last month put off
until September. Mr. Durbin said he would seek to move it again then.
The agriculture and student measures "have a decent chance of passing
this Congress because they have strong champions, broad bipartisan
support and they have been around for a long time," said Frank Sharry,
executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which supported
the broad bill. But he cautioned that they would have to overcome a
"toxic" atmosphere on immigration in the wake of the defeated bill.
The college bill attracted renewed interest this week because of Juan
Sebastian Gomez, a student who just graduated with honors from Killian
Senior High School in Miami. On July 25, immigration agents in Florida
detained Mr. Gomez, 18, his brother and his parents, all illegal
immigrants from Colombia, and prepared to deport them. Immigration
officials delayed the deportation on Wednesday after a group of Mr.
Gomez's high school friends roused support in South Florida and then
flew to Washington to pound on doors.
The friends pointed to Mr. Gomez's academic record -- a near-perfect
3.96 grade-point average -- and top scores on 11 Advanced Placement
exams. They said he should not be punished for his illegal status
because his parents brought him to the United States when he was 2.
The sweeping Senate immigration bill, which included a path to
citizenship for illegal immigrants, was defeated by opponents who said
it would reward knowing lawbreakers and the employers who hired them.
But many legislators, including some who opposed the broader bill, see
the student measure differently because it would benefit immigrant
agers who are illegal only because of decisions their parents made
when the children were young. "It's unfair to make these young people
pay for the sins of their parents," Mr. Durbin said.
The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in
Washington, says nearly a million immigrant students across the
country could gain legal status under the bill, whose backers call it
the Dream Act. While the bill's prospects seem favorable in the
Senate, the outlook is not as bright in the House.
"We call it the Nightmare Act," said Representative Brian P. Bilbray,
a Republican from California who leads the Immigration Reform Caucus
in the House. "We're giving status to immigrants based on the fact
they are here illegally. It really sends a mixed signal to both legal
and illegal immigrants."
Support has also re-emerged for the agricultural bill as labor
shortages have hampered harvests this summer in states like
California, Michigan and North Carolina. The bill's supporters include
growers, the United Farm Workers, conservative Republicans like
Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho, and Senator Dianne Feinstein,
Democrat of California.
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