Newspaper article The Canadian Press

In This Cold Winter, U.S. Congress Offers Little Warmth for Snowbirds

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

In This Cold Winter, U.S. Congress Offers Little Warmth for Snowbirds

Article excerpt

Snowbirds try to break US immigration logjam


WASHINGTON - For any snowbirds who may soon find themselves bumping into the limit for time spent in the U.S., bad news: there's no more escaping this year's Canadian winter.

That's because an attempt to increase the maximum stay hasn't concluded in time to provide respite from this interminably icy season. It's been frost-bitten by a process that can be as painful as a Canadian cold snap: the U.S. legislative system.

A now-frozen immigration bill contained provisions that would have benefited those Canadians, estimated at up to 500,000, who reach the six-month maximum allowed in the U.S. over a 12-month period.

But proponents have a Plan B.

They hope a separate piece of legislation, currently before the House of Representatives, might advance soon despite the Republican-controlled chamber's refusal to deal with the omnibus immigration bill passed by the Senate.

They've received more than a dozen new co-sponsors for the bill in recent weeks, bringing to 141 the number of members from both parties who have added their names to the bill presented by Nevada Republican Joe Heck, titled the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act.

They're urging lawmakers to focus on the first word in the bill's title -- "jobs." Proponents would rather shift this discussion away from the politically charged terrain of immigration, and towards economic grounds such as the job benefits for the U.S. tourism industry and retailers.

"The problem with JOLT, frankly, is I don't think it's an immigration piece," said Michael Mackenzie, head of the Canadian Snowbird Association, which has been actively lobbying for the bill alongside U.S. business interests and lawmakers from states that receive Canadian tourists and shoppers.

"The fact that it's tied to immigration reform is a bit of a problem for us right now... It's a jobs bill."

The bill would allow people over age 50, with an American address, to spend an extra two months in the U.S. -- up to eight months a year. It would be primarily used by the most ardent snowbirds who want to stay south a little longer, or who want to add additional cross-border trips in the summer. …

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