GOLD CARD’ SHOWDOWN ON MONDAY

By Attorney Robert L. Reeves and Jeremiah Johnson

Although the Senate Judiciary Committee has taken a recess without reaching a consensus on Senator Specter’s Chairman Mark-up, Committee members have vowed to continue working towards a comprehensive immigration reform proposal that would include many of the benefits found in the Mark-up, also known as the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006.” Despite many Senators’ call for legislation to include benefits such as the “gold card” or a temporary guest worker program, the Senate Majority leader, Senator Bill Frist, has placed a deadline of this Monday, March 27th to produce a proposal – with or with out the benefits.

If the Senate Judiciary Committee fails to reach a decision by the March 27 deadline, Senator Frist says he will introduce his own legislation to floor of the Senate for a vote. Although Senator Frist’s bill has many similar proposals, the bill focuses exclusively on enforcement and does not include any of the positive benefits proposed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Recognizing that an enforcement only bill does not offer relief to the millions of undocumented aliens, their families and employers, the Judiciary Committee answered Senator Frist’s call for a deadline by committing themselves to introducing a bill by the Monday that would include many of the immigration benefits being discussed. Senator Frist has called for a vote on immigration reform for Monday, and the Judiciary Committee is determined to get a comprehensive bill to the floor on time. A showdown in the Senate is set for Monday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee appears committed to legislation that offers more than tighter border security and tougher enforcement of immigration laws. However, maneuvers such as Senator Frist’s deadline shows that more work is still needed for a comprehensive proposal to become a comprehensive immigration reform law. Monday matters, and although proposals such as the “gold card” and the new temporary guest worker program are still up for debate, the Committee’s rejection of an enforcement only alternative is encouraging.