Immigration hot topic in Washington - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Immigration hot topic in Washington

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April 4, 2006

Albany - There are approximately 11 Million illegal immigrants currently in the United States. Many of them arrive legally, but stay longer than they are supposed to and eventually filter into American society under the radar.

Legislation passed by the House calls for a 700-mile fence along our border to keep illegal immigrants out, but does not allow for a guest worker program.

The Senate proposes a better guest worker program than the one currently in place, but also allows for illegal immigrants to one day become citizens.

One thing House and Senate members agree on is strengthening borders.  As Senator Chambliss puts it, without border control, all immigration legislation will be pointless.  He says, "Whatever we do on an immigration standpoint, if we don't secure the border, then we're not going to accomplish anything."

The main immigration issue Chambliss wants to tackle, a better guest worker program. Currently, farmers enrolled have to pay workers who are here legally more than farmers using illegals. 

Reporter: "The pay right now is $8.07 per hour, which is much higher than minimum wage. Is that one of the provisions you are looking to change?"

Chambliss says,  "It is. We have an amendment to change the adverse effect wage to a prevailing wage."

Another tough topic? Dealing with the 11 Million illegals already living in America. "I am not one of those folks who thinks that you can round up everybody who's here and send them back," says Chambliss.  "I think we're kidding ourselves to think we can do that."

But he doesn't think that just because illegals live here, they are entitled to become citizens.  He says, "We can provide a program for them, short of providing a pathway to citizenship. If they want to pursue citizenship in the way that's on the books today, fine."

Senate Majority Leader Bill First wants a vote this week, but Chambliss says that may not happen.  He says, "There's always a problem when you rush into a complex issue and seek to get it concluded on a definite timetable. Then there is the probability that you will have some unintended consequences of what you do, and I am seriously concerned about that."

The Senator also said he would support legislation that would provide a provision that would encourage people to learn English if they wanted to live in the US legally. Chambliss says he also hopes the guest worker program will become more farmer friendly, so that farmers hiring migrant workers will know they are here legally.

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