A new Proposition 187-style solution to the nation’s illegal immigration woes was embraced by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) Thursday, but some area Democrats who played a role in developing the report that contained the proposal expressed reservations about the document’s sweeping nature.
Reps. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills), Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) and Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills), all members of the congressional task force that produced the recommendations, filed a joint dissent taking exception with some of the most contentious proposals, such as keeping illegal immigrants out of public schools and requiring hospitals to report those without papers to authorities.
Still, the lawmakers stressed the many recommendations on which they found common ground.
“The task force has been successful in addressing the problem of illegal immigration in a bipartisan, reasonable and fair manner,” Beilenson said.
With much fanfare, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), who chaired the task force, handed over the report to Gingrich at a news conference Thursday, calling the document “the first, true comprehensive report dealing with illegal immigration.”
Gallegly added: “It may sound cold to some, but I make no apologies for putting those who have a legal right to be in the country at the head of the line.”
Gingrich, who set up the task force earlier in the year, vowed to use the group’s more than 100 suggestions--which he called “specific, common-sense, practical recommendations"--as a guide while Republicans push tough immigration reform through the House.
Although billed as a bipartisan task force, the group had just six Democrats among its 54 members, critics note. Californians were heavily represented, with 23 slots. It took the group a matter of months to prepare the report, but it could take far longer to approve some of the most contentious recommendations, if they are ever passed, lawmakers said.
“By the end of the year, we may not have all the recommendations in this report,” Gallegly acknowledged, adding that he was confident some comprehensive immigration bill would clear Congress in 1995.
Considering the climate on Capitol Hill, Berman said he was not ruling out any of the proposals.
“In this particular Congress, on an issue that is as emotional as this, one should not assume that any of these proposals will not pass,” he said.
Leading the GOP’s effort to forge an immigration bill is Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tex.), who chairs the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration and claims. Without going into specifics, he called the task force report full of “many good recommendations.”
In fact, the bulk of the report’s proposals were also in Smith’s own immigration bill released earlier this month, such as boosting the Border Patrol to 10,000 agents and making it easier for employers to verify the status of prospective employees. A bipartisan task force chaired by Barbara Jordan, a former Democratic congresswoman from Texas, reached similar conclusions.
It is some of the key differences in the new report that are the most contentious--such as requiring hospitals to report illegal immigrants seeking emergency health care, allowing states to ban illegal immigrant pupils from public schools and amending the Constitution to end automatic citizenship for the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants.
The National Council of La Raza, a Latino group, urged lawmakers in a statement Thursday to “cease the dangerous and ugly game of immigrant bashing for political gain.”
In their dissent, Beilenson, Berman and Harman said raising the Border Patrol to 10,000 agents in the next three years would not allow enough time to adequately train the personnel. They said requiring hospitals to report undocumented patients would discourage some from seeking emergency health care and “could lead to greater public health risks.”
They also disagreed with allowing states to ban undocumented immigrants from public schools, saying it “acts counter to the interests of American communities, contributing to crime, illiteracy, ignorance and discrimination.”
Berman signed a separate dissent opposing the constitutional amendment to end automatic citizenship for those born in the United States. Beilenson supports the idea.