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Immigration Becomes a Political Football (Again)

The question of border security and the threat to U.S. security is back on the table even as the Presidential campaign progresses to the next phases. Senate Republicans plan to introduce a package of as many as 11 bills (could actually grow to 14) that establishes a hard line on illegal immigration. Even though experts consider it unlikely that these bills will reach the floor for debate, they reflect a move toward harsher immigration rhetoric and legislative proposals from both parties since Congress failed to pass a comprehensive overhaul in 2007. While some of the language in these possible pieces of legislation echo House bills, they go further.

These bills include provisions to dock states 10% of their highway funds if they issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Another bill would extend the presence of National Guard on the border and still another would curtail language assistance at federal agencies and the voting booth for people with limited English ability.

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Ala, one of the leaders of the Republican efforts is offering a bill that would impose a maximum two-year sentence for the second offense of crossing the border illegally. Other bills:

● Block federal funding from cities that bar their police from asking about immigration status.

● Give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to use information from the Social Security Administration to target illegal immigrants.

● Require construction of 700 miles of fencing along the Southern border, not including vehicle barriers.

● Impose sanctions on countries that refuse to repatriate their citizens.

● Deport any immigrant, legal or illegal, for one drunken-driving conviction.

● Enable local and state police to enforce federal immigration laws

Its clear that immigration remains a political football in this Presidential election year. This includes the possibility of giving Senator McCain an opportunity to endorse one of the tougher bills to help distance him from some of his previous positions. Posturing or not, maybe some real immigration reform and border security measures will emerge from this, even though its an election year.

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