Barely had the bipartisan Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005 been introduced in Congress on Thursday when Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a strong proponent of prosecuting illegal immigrants to the full extent of current law, attacked the bill as a form of amnesty. “There might be a little more lipstick on this pig than there was before,” he said, according to the Washington Post, “but it is most certainly the same old pig. Time and time again, history has shown us that amnesty actually increases illegal immigration.”
Proponents of the bill say it’s nothing of the sort. Introduced by Sens. John McCain and Ted Kennedy, the legislation would enable illegal workers to apply for a three-year work visa, and later apply for a three-year extension and a green card. Eventually, they could get in the “back of the line,” as McCain has termed it, to apply for citizenship.
The bill was modeled after President Bush’s proposed guest-worker initiative, and follows the Bush administration’s announcement earlier this week that it will begin to provide $1 billion in federal funds to hospitals in states whose emergency rooms treat the greatest number of illegal immigrants. That plan brought praise from health care professionals, who say that the initiative is an important symbolic move in addressing the immigrant problem. “We have formal recognition by the federal government that they have a responsibility to care for illegal immigrants,” John Lott, a spokesman for the Hospital Assn. of Southern California, told the Los Angeles Times.
Some argue that the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act is too permissive. On Thurdsay, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told the Los Angeles Times he thought the bill would fail due to its “work and stay” provision, particularly in light of many House Republicans’ aversion to anything approaching an “amnesty.”
But it seems right-wing Republicans have a rather alien perspective on the immigration issue: According to a bipartisan survey conducted in March by Republican pollster Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, the vast majority of Americans support reforming the system to better facilitate legal immigration. Over 80 percent of respondents said they believe that the current system is broken, and agreed that “if an immigrant has been in this country working, paying taxes, and learning English, there should be a way for them to become a citizen.”