Passage of Immigration Bill Dim
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Immigration advocates had hoped election-year pressure would force Congress to pass sweeping immigration legislation, but with lawmakers deadlocked on budget issues and Election Day approaching, that opportunity has dimmed.
``This is a disappointing experience right now,″ said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. ``It hurts.″
President Clinton has demanded provisions offering permanent residency to three groups of illegal immigrants totaling an estimated 1 million to 2 million people. Earlier in the year, he tried unsuccessfully to link the plan to a bill increasing the number of visas for foreign high-tech workers.
Republicans, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have countered with less-sweeping proposals to grant visas to spouses and children of permanent residents and allow appeals for immigrants who want to challenge Immigration and Naturalization Service decisions.
The two sides haven’t met for days, and with Election Day less than a week away, immigration advocates worry that if nothing is resolved soon, the issue could fade to the background in a lame-duck Congress.
The impasse comes at the end of a campaign year when politicians of both parties courted Latinos. Both presidential candidates are running ads in Spanish and have Spanish-language Web sites.
Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore have dueling campaign stops this week in California, where more than one-fourth of the population is Hispanic.
``There is clearly a battle going on in the different philosophies,″ said Cecilia Munoz, vice president for policy of the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic American advocacy group. ``It’s extremely frustrating that those who are not that far away in political terms ... are not coming to the table.″
Hispanics in California have traditionally voted Democratic in large numbers, so congressional inaction probably wouldn’t send more voters to Gore, said Rodolfo de la Garza, vice president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute and a professor at University of Texas. But the issue could affect turnout elsewhere in the country where Hispanics have become a larger voting bloc.
``The question is whether they’re going to turn out,″ he said. ``That might mobilize people.″
If nothing is approved this week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said he plans to campaign on immigration with Gore on Saturday, Sunday and Monday in at least nine states.
``I think there continues to be an urgency to get this done as soon as possible,″ he said. ``These are visceral issues to a community that don’t surface in polling, but that strike a chord, strike a nerve.″
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, however, doubted that immigration would hurt Republicans in the election.
``From what I have heard, from calls I received Sunday and Monday, people are saying, `Good. Hang in there and don’t give in to anybody on these fundamental principles that are important,‴ said Lott, R-Miss.
On the Net:
The White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov
Senate Judiciary Committee: http://judiciary.senate.gov/
National Council of La Raza: http://www.nclr.org/about/