The Senate legislation, which also creates a guest worker program and seeks to tighten control of the border, passed 62 to 36. Twenty-three Republicans and one independent joined 38 Democrats to win approval of the bill in one of the few displays of bipartisanship on a major piece of legislation in years.The New York Times article goes on to describe the Democrat supporters of the Senate bill as follows:
If the Senate bill's provisions were to make it into law, they would be the most substantial overhaul of immigration law in two decades. The key architects of the bill, Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, hailed the bipartisan coalition for withstanding a large number of amendments intended to sink the legislation.
But supporters of the Senate legislation said they hoped to keep their central principles intact. Democrats said they would not support legislation that did not place most of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.
Can someone give me a justification of why that's the line in the sand? Exactly what did these 11 million people do to merit a path to citizenship that is anything other than follow the existing laws for legal immigration?
I don't think it can be done. I think Representative Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had it exactly right in his reaction to the bill that came out of committee in the Senate:
The bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27 repeats the mistakes made 20 years ago when we provided amnesty to illegal aliens and let unethical businesses off the hook. The Senate bill includes amnesty for the 11 to 12 million undocumented aliens in the US who have managed to elude the authorities. This is a slap in the face to those who are following the law and taking the right steps to enter this country. The Senate proposal absolves the wrongdoers and penalizes those who are obeying the law. I do not accept the claim made by some that this is not amnesty because among other things, illegal aliens would have to pay two fines of $1,000 each. It is offensive to me to think we have legislators who are considering selling US citizenship for $2,000. US citizenship is not for sale. It is a privilege bestowed upon those who appreciate its value, and who contribute to our nation by living in a manner that reflects the principles and ideology of being an American. When someone’s first step in this country is taken in direct violation of our laws, I cannot support a process that allows them to continue residing in the US, while others wait up to 20 years outside the US before they are able to take their first step into this country legally.
Let's hope he stands his ground during the negotiations between the House and Senate versions of the two bills. For my earlier posts on immigration, see this, this and this.