The Senate's Wild Ride

The last few days have brought some excitement to the Senate, from decisions on amendments to S. 2211, the front running immigration bill, to a screaming match between Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).

First, let's talk immigration. One amendment that passed this week attached provisions for building several hundred miles of barriers along the USA-Mexico border. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) justified this by recalling the cliché "Good fences make good neighbors." That sounds nice, but remember the Berlin Wall?

Another amendment mandates that, in order to apply for relief under the so-called "temporary worker programs", an immigrant would have to convince an employer to sponsor his application. Now, that is part of the current procedure for applying for a visa through a labor certification, so perhaps it's not without precedent. But the problem comes because undocumented workers under the whim of unscrupulous employers face a danger in attempting to apply. An employer already using -- and abusing -- the labor of the undocumented might not move so quickly to help an employee legalize his status since he'd then have to conform to standards of U.S. labor, meaning higher wages, benefits, and workplace standards. Employers might not only refuse to sponsor a worker but fire him or simply turn him in to authorities out of spite-- and replace him with another, more servile undocumented worker. One of the major reasons for creating a path to legalization in the first place is to help workers escape the oppressive whimsy of abusive employers and thus stop the undercutting of wages that helps the undocumented beat out the documented for jobs. That serves the interests of not only undocumented workers, but of local unions and documented U.S. workers and citizens as well. This amendment takes a bite out of the bill to which it is attached.

Second, a quick note about the Feingold-Specter fight. It happened as the Senate Judiciary Committee met in a different room, closed to the public and away from its usual meeting place to decide on an amendment to refuse the states' the abilities to recognize gay marriage. It seems Feingold objected to not only the fact that his colleagues were passing an amendment he rightly feels violates the U.S. Constitution but also the somewhat clandestine nature of the vote. He seems especially justified, considering the same Senators questioning CIA chief nominee Gen. Michael Hayden in one room about the NSA's operating opaquely were themselves operating opaquely in a second room.


Post a Comment

<< Home