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Sweet Column: The Hastert Doctrine

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Today, President Bush makes another push for GOP House leaders to capitulate and back an immigration bill based on legislation the Senate passed Friday. That's what Bush has urged -- in more diplomatic language -- in speeches on May 25, May 22, May 20, May 18 and May 15. He's trying.


Last April I ran a column predicting that the likely outcome of the nation's historic debate about immigration is no bill sent to Bush to sign. Now that the Senate has acted, it seems the divisions between the chambers are significant and for now unbridgeable, despite the effort of Bush and his top political adviser Karl Rove, recently dispatched to Capitol Hill to talk to reluctant House Republicans.

The House bill deals only with border security, calling for a fence along portions of the southern border and making illegal immigrants and those who help them felons.

The Senate bill provides a path for millions of people here illegally to legalize their status, lets students here illegally remain in school and creates a guest or temporary worker program. It's not a pure amnesty play but does give a break to people who broke the law. The Senate provides more border security by bringing in the National Guard along the Mexican border. Making English the national language is also part of the Senate bill. When Bush calls for "comprehensive'' reform, it's code for endorsing many of the provisions in the Senate bill.

The House and Senate need to agree on the exact same language before a bill is sent to Bush.

There is probably a majority in the House to support a Senate approach to immigration.

It's not that simple, however. There is something called the Hastert Doctrine that will be applied if and when Senate and House members sit down in a conference committee to negotiate a common bill to take back to their chambers for final approval.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, who today becomes the longest-serving GOP House speaker in history, has a governing philosophy, and that is moving legislation to the floor only if it has the backing of the majority of the majority.

While a bill may not emerge from this process, there are some interesting other provisions buried in the House and Senate measures that are worth some attention:

*What's the impact of illegal immigration when it comes to reapportioning political districts after each census? The Senate is suspicious redistricting is not being done right because the voting age population count used in reapportionment may include non-citizens. The bill calls for a Census Bureau study of the situation.

*Creation of "Passport cards'' provided for in the Senate bill that would allow "expedited travel'' between the United States, Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

*Funding of a vast university network in Mexico to address poverty in that country, which is driving millions of Mexicans to sneak into the United States seeking a better life. The Senate bill calls for a U.S. land grant university (a state school) to establish the "Mexican Rural Poverty Mitigation Program'' in each of Mexico's 31 states.

*The House bill calls for all uniforms used by Border Patrol Agents to be made in the United States.

*Drunk driving, in the House bill, would earn automatic deportation for an illegal immigrant after the first conviction.

*The Senate also lets money do some talking. Under the plan, an employer in the United States could pay a "premium'' fee for expedited handling of employment-based immigration petitions.

*In order to bolster border forces, members of the Armed Forces would get incentive pay in the Senate plan to sign up as border patrol agents.

*If a border fence ever becomes law, the Senate calls for a report within six months of passage to determine if the people impacted on both sides of the border have been solicited for their views in order to "lessen tensions.''

*The Statue of Liberty has stood as the symbol of this nation as a land of immigrants. Portions have been closed since the 9-11 attacks. On page 114 of a 115-page amendment, there is language calling for the interior secretary to open the statue again, "including the crown and stairs'' to all people who pass security.

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2 Comments

J.Dennis Hastert doctrine no bill will come to the floor of this House unless it is a Republican Bill.The GI Bill of Rights For The 21st Century is a Democratic Bill as of yet Hastert will not let it come to the floor for a up or down vote.Hastert doctrine does not support veterans or our troops.

A Legal Permanent Resident (a.k.a green card holder) has to be separated years from his/her spouse/family if he/she marries after getting his/her green card. The fallacy of the situation is while there is provision for family unification without any limit/deadline for all other visa holders including temporary H1 and F1 visas there is nothing for green card holders who technically would be eligible for citizenship in 5 years after getting their green card.

The Legal Immigration Family Equity Act and its amendments (LIFE Act) established a new nonimmigrant category (V) within the immigration law that allows the spouse or child of a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident to live and work in the United States in a nonimmigrant category. The spouse or child can remain in the United States while they wait until they are able to apply for lawful permanent residence status (Adjusting Status), or for an immigrant visa, instead of having to wait outside the United States as the law previously required. The above section of INA made V visa available for the non-resident spouses and children of legal immigrants, thus reducing separation period.

But LIFE act had certain caveat. To be eligible the person should: --Be the principal beneficiary of a relative petition (Form I-130) that was filed by the Lawful Permanent Resident spouse/parent on or before December 21, 2000 --Have been waiting at least 3 years since the petition was filed for status as a Lawful Permanent Resident because the petition is still pending, or has been approved but an immigrant visa is not yet available

Due to this LPR filing for I-130 after Dec 22 2000 combined with the enormous backlog in BCIS processing of immigration petitions, has caused over half a million spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents forced to be separated. Spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents would have to wait for an immigrant visa to become available before they can be allowed to enter USA. This process is currently taking up to six (6) years, during which spouses and children of legal immigrants are not even allowed to visit their family in the US.

A bill H.R. 3701 was introduced and ten HR 1823 in the House of Representatives and forwarded to the Committee on Judiciary. It extends the deadline for visa to year 2011 and reduces the waiting period to 6 months. This bill, if enacted, would most effectively solve the problem with a minimum impact on the federal government since the pertinent procedures and infrastructure already exist and are in place. It would also allow the federal government to do better security checks and perform any other existing and new procedures without punishing families that would be allowed to stay united.

In all aspects the bill H.R. 1823 is an excellent piece of legislature. That's why it already gained traction in the House of Representatives, as indicated by recent co-sponsorship of four (13) members of the Committee on Judiciary. So far, the bill is pending consideration. Every day this law is delayed, hundreds of thousands of spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents remain separated. This is a violation of the American notions of family values and justice.

Senate passed a bill for illegal immigrants but they didn't Pass S.1919 for those who are legel here and suffring. They pay their taxes like a US citizen only the difference between a LPR and US citizen, LPR can not vote.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 1, 2006 6:12 AM.

Hillary: Kicks off Senate '06 re-elect bid today. '08 PREZ BUZZ. SHOULD HILLARY RUN? SHOULD OBAMA RUN? was the previous entry in this blog.

Bush: Pushes again for ``comprehensive'' immigration bill. ``This isn't amnesty.'' is the next entry in this blog.

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