clear
Tuesday July 7th, 2015 8:32PM

Senate chairman calls for action on immigration

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate opened its first hearing on a comprehensive immigration overhaul Wednesday with a call from a committee chairman for swift action on a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants. Tensions quickly emerged as shouting protesters interrupted the hearing and Republicans called for border security first.

"The president is right: Now is the time," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told a packed hearing room a day after President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to renew his call for immigration reform and eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The emotions surrounding the issue were on display as protesters shouted down the first witness, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, calling for an end to deportations.

The protesters were ushered out. Napolitano declared the border more secure than ever and rejected the argument that border security must be the focus before comprehensive immigration reform or any pathway to legalization can be done.

"Too often the border security refrain simply serves as an excuse," Napolitano said. "Our borders have in fact never been stronger."

A top committee Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., quickly contradicted her and Leahy, saying the administration has not focused sufficiently on enforcement, and contending that "you mean amnesty only, you really mean we're not going to have enforcement, we've got to have amnesty first."

The hearing came amid a concerted focus on immigration reform from the White House to Capitol Hill. Obama says he is determined to finally make good on his promise to the Latino community to sign into law a comprehensive immigration bill with border security, employer enforcement, improvements to legal immigration and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of eight senators has been meeting to develop a bill by next month that accomplishes eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants while also containing enough border security and enforcement measures to gain conservative support.

It comes amid a rapidly shifting political environment with polls showing more Americans support eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants, and many Republican leaders increasingly supportive of action on immigration reform in the wake of a dismal showing among Latino voters in the November elections.

Yet, as Wednesday's hearing made starkly clear, the success of any legislation is no sure thing with many Republicans still deeply skeptical.

Several Republicans on the panel rejected Napolitano's contention that the border is secure, questioned why earlier immigration laws never yielded the promised enforcement mechanisms, and branded as "amnesty" attempts to legalize illegal immigrants.

"I do not believe the border is secure and I still believe we have a long, long way to go," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Protesters interrupted the hearing several times, with some shouting and waving banners against deportations, which have increased markedly under the Obama administration. Later another group stood and turned their backs to the dais where the senators sat, with signs on their backs reading "human rights" and "immigrant rights." Leahy repeatedly chided the protesters for interrupting proceedings.

In an unusual move for Congress the hearing was also to feature testimony from an illegal immigrant, Jose Antonio Vargas, a former journalist who founded the group Define American, which campaigns for immigration reform.

The former head of America Online, Steve Case, also was on the witness list, along with Chris Crane, president of the immigration and customs' workers union, which has opposed Obama's immigration policies.

The bipartisan Senate negotiators, including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and John McCain, R-Ariz., are operating separately from the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the committee is expected to vote on any legislation they produce.

A major difference between Obama's proposals and the blueprint embraced by the bipartisan Senate negotiators is that the senators are making a pathway to citizenship conditional on border security being accomplished first - something Republicans demand - while Obama's plan contains no such linkage.

Vargas acknowledged his illegal status in a high-profile piece in The New York Times Magazine in June 2011 but thus far has avoided deportation. He was part of a Washington Post team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre. He wrote in his Times essay that his mother sent him from the Philippines to live with grandparents in California in 1993 when he was 12. He wrote that he didn't find out he was in the country illegally until he applied for a driver's permit with forged documents.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
NSA reportedly intercepts computer deliveries
A German magazine has lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacker unit, revealing how American spies intercepted computer deliveries, exploited hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijacked Microsoft's bug report system to spy on their targets.
12:31PM ( 1 year ago )
Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel
Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel on Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
12:26PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Senate, House look to update Bush-era education law
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is making another run at rewriting the Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law, even as the Obama administration urges changes it says would ensure that schools are held...
5:18PM ( 3 hours ago )
SC Senate gives final OK to Confederate flag removal
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina Senate gave its final approval Tuesday to removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, but across the hall in the House, Republicans quietly sought...
5:01PM ( 3 hours ago )
US job openings stay high, but actual hiring falters in May
WASHINGTON (AP) — Job openings stayed close to a 15-year high in May. It's a sign that companies are expecting continued economic growth, but the level of advertised jobs hasn't driven the same kind o...
12:46PM ( 7 hours ago )
Cosby said he got drugs to give women for sex
Bill Cosby testified in 2005 that he got Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to young women he wanted to have sex with, and he admitted giving the sedative to at least one woman and "other people."
11:42PM ( 20 hours ago )
US stocks slip amid global sell-off after Greek 'no' vote
NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks in the U.S. fell broadly following drops in overseas markets as Greeks voted to reject creditor conditions for more loans, but the losses weren't as steep as many had feared.Wit...
6:32PM ( 1 day ago )