Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Paradoxes of Immigration Hit US Senate ; Huge Protests across the Country Heat Up This Week's Legislative Debate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Paradoxes of Immigration Hit US Senate ; Huge Protests across the Country Heat Up This Week's Legislative Debate

Article excerpt

How does the United States count the cost of at least 11 million immigrants living and often working outside the law?

For business groups - now urging a path to citizenship or other legal status for such workers - it's the lower cost of a head of lettuce, new home construction, or a restaurant tab, because these people will do the work that Americans won't.

For local officials across the country - no longer just those near a border - it's the strain illegals pose to schools, hospital emergency rooms, law enforcement, and other social services, driving municipal budgets deep into the red.

For illegal immigrants and their supporters - rallying by the hundreds of thousands around the country in the run-up to this debate - the issue is freedom from fear.

But one of the most pervasive costs of a broken immigration system, acknowledged by all sides, is the cost of deception.

"Today's immigration policy is almost founded on lies," says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. "It presupposes lying by almost everyone involved."

Bringing honesty to the system without deporting millions and jeopardizing major sectors of the US economy is the tough task before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as its 18 members struggle toward consensus on a new strategy for immigration reform.

Senate majority leader Bill Frist has set Tuesday to begin debate on the topic. That means the Judiciary panel has one last day - Monday - to work out a comprehensive plan, including a new guest worker program and a path to citizenship for those already working illegally. If it fails, Senator Frist will introduce his own plan Tuesday, which, like the House bill, aims only to gain control of US borders.

Pro-immigration demonstrators, meanwhile, are expected to rally at the Capitol Tuesday, following a 500,000-strong rally for illegal- immigrant rights in Los Angeles, and other protests in Denver, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Tucson, Ariz. Organizers say they'll march in 30 more cities before the Senate vote next month.

Last year, the immigration debate on Capitol Hill was overshadowed by the Minutemen - an armed civilian posse out to stop illegal border crossings. But the prospect of congressional crackdown on illegal immigrants, including the enforcement of penalties against employers who hire them, is drawing record numbers of immigrants into the streets, with a powerful coalition of business, church, and union groups behind them. Their message: These are good people who work hard, pay taxes, and should not be treated as felons.

"Polls show that people do recognize the value of immigration, including illegal," says Peter Schuck, a professor at Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn. "On the other hand, it is a violation of law, and people have just found strategies to live with it. …

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