Feb 06 2007
Sand Mountain Reporter
By David Clemons
The war in Iraq dominates the national debate, but immigration is a big topic locally.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, visited Marshall County this weekend as part of an annual statewide tour. He predicted “another big fight” this year in Washington over immigration.
President Bush, in last month’s State of the Union address, suggested a temporary worker program and a way to resolve citizenship of illegal immigrants “without animosity and without amnesty.”
But Shelby said many in Washington want to provide amnesty, whether the word is used or not.
“I disagree with [Bush] on amnesty for people who come here to break the law,” Shelby said. “If we have laws of immigration, we ought to enforce them or we ought to get rid of them.”
The fourth-term senator promised to vote against “anything wrapped up with amnesty.”
Shelby also said he wouldn’t be voting for a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush’s plans to increase the United States military presence in Iraq by more than 20,000 troops.
“I’m not ever going to vote against the troops when they’re in harm’s way,” Shelby said.
Still, he acknowledged “blunders” in Iraq and suggested that if Donald Rumsfeld had resigned as secretary of defense a few months before he did, then Shelby’s Republican Party might still control the Senate.
Shelby said a withdrawal of troops would be a mistake.
“We can’t just come home and forget the world,” he said. “Occupy, clean it up and get the heck out of there.”
Shelby said he joined the Senate last week in voting for an increase in the minimum wage, but only because the bill included tax breaks for small businesses.
The bill would raise minimum wage to $7.25 an hour by 2009. The House earlier passed an increase in the minimum wage, but without tax breaks.
Shelby said he didn’t think the House version would pass the Senate and he predicted Bush would veto it.
The House and Senate must reconcile the differences in their bills before anything is sent to the president.
Billy Cannon, chairman of the Marshall County Commission, asked Shelby for help with infrastructure, particularly in the northern part of the county, to accommodate expected growth when thousands of military jobs move to Huntsville as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission process.
Cannon also sought help with the methamphetamine epidemic. He said 200 of the county’s 216 inmates were in jail on meth-related charges.
“We have got to have some kind of government assistance in this area,” Cannon said. “It’s eating us alive.”
Shelby, 72, also said he’s planning to seek a fifth term in 2010.
“I’m middle-aged in the Senate,” he said.