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“How can we beef up security checks on people who enter the United States? How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are ineligible for benefits under immigration laws, including this new bill before us,” said Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Following the hearing, committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, was asked about Grassley’s comments and whether they could impede progress on the immigration bill that Democrats want to pass in the Senate sometime in June.
Referring to past attacks in the United States, Leahy responded: “If we change the policies of this country every time something happens, whether it’s Oklahoma City, 9/11 or this, we’re never going to do anything. We should think about what are the best policies for the United States and use those.”
Long before the twin bombings at the finish line of the famous Boston foot race, some conservatives in Congress had outlined several lines of attack against the much-anticipated Senate immigration bill, which has bipartisan support and is backed by President Barack Obama.
Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama argued that the bill would hurt the U.S. economy by further straining federal benefit programs and exacerbating job shortages. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office is assessing the economic impact.
At Friday’s hearing, Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which advises on civil rights policy and enforcement of laws, testified that giving legal status to 11 million undocumented people would allow them to “leapfrog” American citizens in low-skilled jobs, including blacks who face higher unemployment rates than the national average.
“We’ve got millions upon millions of Americans, not just black Americans … who don’t have a job right now,” said Kirsanow, who was appointed in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush, a Republican.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a sponsor of the immigration bill, countered that foreign labor already dominates the workforce at meat-packing plants and peach farms in his home state. “There are certain parts of this economy, you are not going to find an American worker no matter what you do,” Graham said.
Other senators said legalizing the 11 million would boost their pay, raising wages for Americans in low-skilled jobs.