Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New Immigration Bill Exposes Huge Divisions Among Democrats

Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel are the two House Democrats the Netroots hates the most. They are seen as politicians rather than true believers, committed to doing what it takes to get Democrats elected -- even if the liberal base hates them for it. That makes them two of the savvier operators on that side of the aisle.

So it's no surprise that Steny Hoyer is sounding very amenable to tackling border security:

Freshman Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) proposed a tough new enforcement-only immigration bill Tuesday with 84 co-sponsors, split nearly evenly between the parties...

The bill would set up a new verification system for employees to show that they are here legally, which all businesses would have to use within four years...

The bill also would increase the border patrol by 8,000 agents, boost enforcement of immigration laws by state and local authorities and expedite the removal of illegal immigrants...

Shuler said he spoke to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) about the bill. “With the support it has, 84 co-sponsors from 26 states, I hope that it gets the opportunity to be voted on on the House floor,” Shuler said.

“We’re looking closely at that,” Hoyer said of the bill Tuesday. “Obviously it has to go through committee, but Congressman Shuler has made a very good effort here trying to put a package together that he hopes will be an effective solution. We’ll have to see what the committee has to say about that...”

But Shuler’s plan raised the ire of Hispanic Democrats, who have been frustrated at the House’s inability to pass immigration legislation.

“I’m always concerned about Democrats imitating Republicans,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). “Democrats have been running away from some of the most vulnerable workers in this country — the undocumented.”

Gutierrez blamed House Democrats for failing to move immigration bills, which he said left an opening for an “enforcement only” approach...

There's plenty of evidence that the voters are four-square in favor of immigration enforcement first. Mickey and Jim Geraghty are among those who've talked about the votes that can be won -- probably by Republicans, but maybe by Democrats -- on the issue. The second-greatest hope for the GOP is that the Democratic Congress does nothing on the issue. The greatest hope is that conservative Democrats push for Congress to do something, and Democratic liberals prevent them.

This debate is sure to get traction, and it has the potential to cause much greater division in the caucus. Here's hoping.

Update: A writer at the Politico sees the immigration issue as a huge headache for the Democrats as well.

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