May 23 2007
By Lance Griffin
A pending immigration bill set for debate in Congress undermines the rule of law and won’t get the support of at least one Alabama senator.
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said he strongly opposes an upcoming immigration bill he says grants amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in the United States.
“This bill says that if you break the law and you stay here long enough, we’re going to give you a way to stay forever,” Shelby said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. “What does this say for people who stood in long lines through the years, who came to this country legally?”
While the language of the bill is not known, Shelby said the proposed compromise bill from ranking Congressional Republicans and Democrats is short on enforcement and long on amnesty. He said illegal immigrants in the United States should be forced to return to their native country and begin the process of applying for U.S. citizenships.
“You ought to go home and apply legally to come into this country, because there is a legal way,” Shelby said.
Shelby isn’t the only Republican senator pushing the strategy. U.S. Sen Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said she plans to seek an amendment to the bill that would force illegal immigrants to go back to their home countries before gaining legal status.
Shelby said the only way he would support the bill would be if “they knocked out amnesty.”
“And they’re not going to do that. That’s the crux of the bill,” he said.
The bill also appears to have White House approval.
Supporters of the bill say it comes closer to dealing with the problem of illegal immigration than any other piece of legislation. Parts of the bill call for a substantial increase in border patrol officers to 18,000, and for funds to erect travel barriers and more than 500 miles of fencing along the border. At the same time, it allows those already here illegally to gain legal status without being deported. It also creates tougher laws for employers who hire illegals.
Alabama’s other Republican senator, Sen. Jeff Sessions, appeared closer to supporting the bill, but said he had strong reservations as debate on the bill approaches in June.
“I’m disappointed — almost heartbroken — because we made some progress toward getting to this new framework, but the political wheeling and dealing and compromising and splitting the baby has resulted in a circumstance that ... we just didn’t get far enough,” Sessions told the Associated Press.
Shelby said constituent calls, letters and e-mails are overwhelmingly against the measure.