Senators take up immigration in first hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony from Janet Napolitano, Jose Antonio Vargas and others

Topics: Jose Antonio Vargas, Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security, Senate Judiciary Committee, Immigration Reform,

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators are weighing one of President Barack Obama’s second-term priorities at the first Senate hearing on a comprehensive immigration overhaul. Many stubborn fault lines are sure to emerge.

Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which comes amid a concerted focus on immigration reform from the White House to Capitol Hill, was to feature testimony from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and — in an unusual move for Congress — an illegal immigrant, Jose Antonio Vargas, a former journalist who founded the group Define American, which campaigns for immigration reform.

The former head of America Online, Steve Case, also was on the witness list, along with Chris Crane, president of the immigration and customs’ workers union, which has opposed Obama’s immigration policies.

The hearing comes a day after Obama, in his State of the Union address, renewed his call for sweeping immigration legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of eight senators has been meeting to develop a bill by next month that accomplishes eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants while also containing enough border security and enforcement measures to gain conservative support.

The bipartisan Senate negotiators, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are operating separately from the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the committee is expected to vote on any legislation they produce. In his opening statement for Wednesday’s hearing, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., planned to emphasize the importance of a straightforward and attainable path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, including the youths known as “dreamers” brought here by their parents.

“Comprehensive immigration reform must include a fair and straightforward path to citizenship for those ‘dreamers’ and families who have made the United States their home — the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the United States,” Leahy’s statement said. “I am troubled by any proposal that contains false promises in which citizenship is always over the next mountain. I want the pathway to be clear and the goal of citizenship attainable.”



But with conservative lawmakers heavily represented on the panel, the hearing seemed likely to put into harsh perspective the difficulties of getting comprehensive legislation through Congress despite the commitment from Obama and many Republican leaders. A number of these leaders have come to view immigration legislation as a political imperative after November’s election, when Latino voters flocked to Obama and helped ensure his re-election. But that view has not been embraced by all rank-and-file Republicans.

“The biggest obstacle we face to reform is this nation’s failure to establish lawfulness in the system,” a top committee Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said after Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday. “The president’s plan meets the desire of businesses for low-wage foreign workers while doing nothing to protect struggling American workers.”

In addition to border security and a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, any comprehensive immigration legislation would probably address the issues of employer verification and temporary workers, and make changes to the legal immigration system. A major difference between Obama’s proposals and the blueprint embraced by the bipartisan Senate negotiators is that the senators are making a pathway to citizenship conditional on border security being accomplished first — something Republicans demand — while Obama’s plan contains no such linkage.

Vargas acknowledged his illegal status in a high-profile piece in The New York Times Magazine in June 2011 but thus far has avoided deportation. He was part of a Washington Post team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre. He wrote in his Times essay that his mother sent him from the Philippines to live with grandparents in California in 1993 when he was 12. He wrote that he didn’t find out he was in the country illegally until he applied for a driver’s permit with forged documents.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>