Elliot Spagat, AP, July 5, 2006
San Diego — A Republican-led House panel planned to kick off a series of unusual hearings about immigration Wednesday, a blow to President Bush’s proposed election-year overhaul that includes a guest worker program and legal status for some who are in the country illegally.
House GOP leaders called the unusual hearings last month after the Senate in May passed an immigration reform bill, backed by Specter, that includes a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for millions in the country illegally. A separate House-approved bill focuses only on enforcement.
The parade of hearings will likely offer a wealth of material for cable television and for talk-radio hosts just before congressional campaigns kick into high gear.
“This is an opportunity for one, big rolling town meeting across the country,” said Mark Williams, a conservative radio host in Sacramento.
Not to be outdone by immigration hard-liners, Specter’s hearing in Philadelphia was scheduled to feature New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Democrats in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus planned to attend the San Diego hearing to demand the House GOP answer for its “failed record” on immigration.
Democrats initially considered boycotting the hearings, but will treat them as a platform to assail an enforcement-only approach to immigration reform, said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks.
“If they want to have a dog-and-pony show, that’s fine,” said Sherman, the ranking Democrat on the International Relations subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, which will host the San Diego hearing. “They have really ugly dogs and really mangy ponies.”
In a test last year of security at points of entry, undercover investigators slipped enough radioactive material to make two small “dirty bombs” across U.S. borders in Texas and Washington state.
Royce invited seven witnesses to speak Wednesday, including two border sheriffs, a Border Patrol official and the head of a civilian border watch group. Sherman invited Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.