Supporters of Immigration Overhaul Rally
By SUZANNE GAMBOA
The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 10, 2007; 5:09 PM
WASHINGTON — Backers of overhauling immigration rules began a congressional push Wednesday to give temporary legal status to up to 1.5 million illegal immigrant workers to provide a labor pool for U.S. agriculture.
The proposal is a recycled version of parts of a bill that stalled after passing the Senate last year. House Republicans blocked negotiations on the measure, sticking with a get-tough stand against illegal immigrants before the November elections.
Those wanting to liberalize immigration laws hope the combination of a Democratic majority in Congress, support from President Bush and a perceived backlash against anti-immigration rhetoric in the elections will help power the comprehensive immigration proposals.
“The reality is Americans have come to rely on an undocumented migrant work force to harvest our crops,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a news conference.
Under the bill, illegal immigrants who can show they have labored in agriculture for at least 150 work days for the past two years would become eligible for a “blue card” bestowing temporary legal status. Their spouses and minor children also could get a blue card if they already live in the U.S.
People with these cards who work an additional three years, at least 150 days a year, or five years, at least 100 days a year, would be eligible for legal residency. But they first would have to pay a $500 fine, be up to date on taxes, have no record of committing crimes involving bodily injury or threat of serious bodily injury or have caused property damage of more than $500.