RALEIGH — Efforts recently by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., and several Republican members of Congress to urge the Senate to resist attempts to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants were unsuccessful, judging from proposed legislation agreed on by leaders in the Senate last week.
Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate last week agreed on a bill to overhaul U.S. immigration policy (read full text of the 362-page bill here). The Senate compromise would grant legal status to millions of people in the country unlawfully, increase border security and create a temporary-worker program. The deal would also change requirements for new immigrants and make it harder for illegal workers to get jobs.
But at a press conference on May 8 some members of the House tried to head off any compromise that included anything resembling amnesty, or making illegals legal by the stroke of a pen.
“This is an issue that Democrats and Republicans should stand together on,” Shuler said then. “We should stand for the rule of law and what is right. We cannot, we must not, and we should not reward those who have broken the law.
“It is unfair to those who have gone through and are continuing to go through the process of legal immigration to grant amnesty and citizenship to those who have entered our country illegally.”
The members sent an open letter to senators urging them, apparently unsuccessfully, to reject any such legislation. Shuler was the only Democrat to participate, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and main author of the letter, said, “We are here today to send a signal to the Senate that if they put forward this plan — we will call it what it is, ‘amnesty.’ Amnesty puts lawbreakers ahead of those who are law-abiding, puts foreign workers ahead of American workers, and encourages even more illegal immigration.”
Members of the House at the press conference pointed to the amnesty offered to illegal immigrants in 1986 as evidence that amnesty encourages more illegal immigration.
Homeland Security Committee ranking member Peter King, R-N.Y.; immigration subcommittee ranking member Steve King, R-Iowa; Immigration Reform Committee Chairman Brian Bilbray, R-Calif.; and terrorism subcommittee ranking member Ed Royce, R-Calif., joined Shuler and Smith at the press conference.
Shuler is a member of the immigration reform caucus.