Within hours of the Senate vote to kill its comprehensive immigration reform bill, the lobbyist for software giant Oracle Corporation had already declared that Silicon Valley's proposal for more guest workers was still alive. "We don't think it's dead," Robert Hoffman told the San Francisco Chronicle. Microsoft Corporation CEO Steve Ballmer threatened to move more high-tech jobs out of the country if electronics corporations didn't get more contract migrant labor. Other corporate spokespeople also announced they were looking for ways to revive the Senate bill in which they'd invested so much political capital.
Immigrant communities and union activists had been in the streets for months, trying to stop the same bill. In San Francisco alone, seven were arrested in the office of Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California) during the recess that preceded the June 7 vote. Dozens more debated the senator in front of her home the morning after the arrests. Around the country, similar demonstrations did what they could to kill the bill. The National Day Labor Organizing Network called it a "cynical and mean-spirited effort of those senators that seek to poison the immigration reform debate yet again," and warned, "we are fearful that an insufficient Senate bill cannot be adequately repaired in the House of Representatives or in a conference session."
It was no surprise that many greeted the (perhaps temporary) death of comprehensive immigration reform as a necessary move to protect immigrants themselves. These groups saw in the bill a threat of more contract labor programs, more enforcement and raids, greater militarization of the border and erosion of basic due-process rights. Filipinos for Affirmative Action, voicing a criticism common in Asian American and Latino communities, said the bill "moved away from permanent, family-based immigration toward a temporary employment system."
As debate in the Senate proceeded, even the bill's promise of legalization for the nation's 12 million undocumented residents proved so restrictive that only a small percentage eventually would have qualified. Migrants without status would have had to place their families in jeopardy just to apply.
After the vote in the Senate defeating cloture, killing the bill at least for the moment, John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, declared it "plagued by anti-family, anti-worker provisions," and called it " doomed at the onset. The bill abandoned long-standing US policy favoring the reunification of families and failed to protect workers' most basic rights."
Despite the fact that the bill was brokered by the Bush administration, many of its proponents were not Republicans, but liberal Democrats, most prominently Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts). Supporting it was a network of lobbyists referred to in the press as "immigration advocates," large employers, and conservative think tanks. For two years this alliance advocated a strategy of trading legalization of undocumented immigrants for increased immigration enforcement and guest-worker programs. The National Immigration Forum and the DC umbrella group it initiated, the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, were key players in this strategy. Behind them was the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which brought together over 40 of the largest corporate trade and manufacturing associations in the country, under the aegis of the US Chamber of Commerce. EWIC head John Gay, also head of the National Restaurant Association, chairs the NIF board.
These Washington groups supported all the compromise bills embodying the legalization/enforcement/guest-worker tradeoff, beginning with the original Kennedy/McCain bill in 2005. The same argument was used to justify them all: "It's not possible to get legalization without including more enforcement and guest-worker programs." While the groups occasionally disagreed with individual provisions of the proposals that followed, they not only agreed with the basic structure and architecture of these bills, but became their ardent advocates in meetings around the country.
As the proposals moved through negotiations with the administration and Congressional Republicans, legalization schemes became more restrictive, enforcement provisions more ferocious, and contract labor schemes more extensive. Yet, the recently defeated Senate compromise was greeted as a "good starting point." Even at the end, the DC groups called on immigrant communities to urge defeat of "bad" amendments to it, while continuing to urge senators to support the comprehensive immigration reform, or tradeoff, framework.
While Congress considered this series of proposals, the Bush administration embarked on a series of highly publicized immigration raids and workplace firings, to put pressure on immigrant communities and unions to accept its reform program. The bills themselves called for giving the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, more enforcement authority to conduct these raids. The administration, for instance, proposed that employers be required to fire any worker whose Social Security number didn't match the agency's database. Although Bush never actually issued this regulation, and the bills obviously hadn't passed, ICE and employers began using it as the basis for enforcement actions...
Meanwhile, Harry Reid asks for help- "leadership"- from Bu$hie to get their Bill passed, and of course Dear Leader traveling in Bulgaria fresh from his adoring throngs in Albania sez: ""I'll see you at the bill signing".
The Undead walk!