Friday, June 26, 2009

Obama Wants Immigration Reform Debated in Congress before the End of the Year

President Barack Obama, meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, asked for action on immigration reform before the end of the year -- at the latest, early next year. He has still set broad goals, but the most controversial is still "the path the citizenship". Rahm Emanuel, his Chief-of-Staff, feels the votes are not there yet. About forty Democrats from conservative districts -- :the blue dogs" -- are at best lukewarm, if not hostile. Republican votes will be needed. So the president announced a White House team, led by Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, to work with Congress.

The president sat next to Sen. John McCain (R, AZ) and praised him for bucking his party on immigration. But the senator raised another divisive issue -- the guest-work program. After a legalization and stronger enforcement that will be written in a bill as a kind of trade-off, there still will be the issue of a continuing demand for foreign workers. Business would be happy to expand the current program. But the unions want to restrict the use of the program in hard times and only allow it under strict restrictions in good times.They would change the program so that the worker would not be tied to one employer, would be allowed to bring his family, and after a time would be able to file for permanent residency. At no times would foreign workers be competitors to Americans. But McCain, after the meeting to reporters, insisted a generous guest-worker program was a deal-breaker. The onus of convincing the unions, he said, was on the president. (See New York Times article.)

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