Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s secret work on an immigration bill threatens the chance of passing any guest-worker program this year, warned Sen. Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
“If you want to be in at the landing, you have to be in at the takeoff,” Mr. Specter of Pennsylvania yesterday cautioned Mr. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, saying Mr. Kennedy has broken a promise to consult with other senators’ staffs on a new bill. That bill, details of which were first reported by The Washington Times, would grant citizenship rights to most illegal aliens already in the U.S.
Mr. Specter’s warning and Mr. Gutierrez’s comments underscore how even with a Democratic majority, which is in line with Mr. Bush on immigration, Congress will struggle to pass a bill this year.
But House Republicans said it amounted to an amnesty for most illegal aliens, and they refused to bring it up, instead forcing the Senate to pass an enforcement bill that includes building hundreds of miles of double-tier fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick V. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, called the barrier a “Potemkin fence” and said the money would be “wasted” in building it.
Yesterday, he and other senators bristled at the “amnesty” label. Some of them pleaded with the secretaries to help them come up with a way to avoid the label.
Even as Mr. Kennedy and Mr. McCain work in private, they appear to have lost one key Democratic supporter. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said that bill was too broad, that the guest-worker program for future workers was too big and that splitting illegal aliens based on their time here was too open to fraud.