The Senate is bracing for its first fight over amnesty for illegal immigrants in nearly 10 years after the chamber’s parliamentarian ruled that a debate over granting legal status to illegal agriculture workers will be allowed on the pending emergency spending bill.
The $81 billion spending bill covers costs associated with the war on terror, and the House already passed a version with provisions restricting asylum claims and cracking down on illegal immigrants’ ability to use driver’s licenses. The parliamentarian said those provisions open the door for Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, to offer as an amendment his bill, commonly called “Ag-jobs,” to legalize the 500,000 to 1 million illegal immigrants now working in the agriculture industry.
“With the parliamentarian’s approval it’s looking more and more likely we’ll offer Ag-jobs as an amendment,” Craig spokesman Sidney Smith said. “That decision isn’t set in concrete, but it’s starting to shape up that way.”
The spending bill will be before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, though Mr. Smith said that if Mr. Craig offers his amendment, it will be during the floor debate. But Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, chairman of the Judiciary immigration subcommittee, is opposed to the bill and says it will not pass.
The measure would allow any agricultural worker who is in the United States illegally and who has worked 100 days out of a year, during the 18 months prior to Jan. 1, 2005, to gain legal status.
Mr. Craig’s office says his bill isn’t amnesty. “It’s not; it’s rehabilitation,” Mr. Tobias said.
He said the bill would apply to 500,000 workers and another 200,000 to 300,000 spouses and children. Opponents say it would apply to 1 million workers and 2 million spouses and children.
Mr. Craig’s measure, which achieved 62 co-sponsors in the last Congress, has only 43 this year.