Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Immigration Bills Part of Current GOP Strategy

GOP pressing immigrant issue
House Republicans' tactic: Use Dems' votes against them
Mike Madden
Republic Washington Bureau
Arizona Republic
Oct. 10, 2007 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - ...Seeking an early edge for next year's elections, House Republicans have forced several immigration votes on seemingly unrelated legislation since Democrats took control in January.

Republicans want to keep forcing Democrats to take votes that could be seen as favoring illegal immigrants. Party leaders say they will keep finding ways to relate nearly everything the House does this year back to immigration, no matter how big of a stretch.

The hope is that a pro-immigrant voting record could hurt vulnerable freshman candidates, including Arizona's Gabrielle Giffords and Harry Mitchell...

'Political games'

"It's nothing but a bunch of political games they're playing, and they're trying to catch people," said Mitchell, who was one of the lawmakers who switched his vote in August. He said he originally voted for the GOP motion because he opposes giving benefits to illegal immigrants but said he voted no in the end because the motion would have doomed the underlying bill if Republicans won.

"Border security and illegal immigration - these are very serious issues, and I don't think they're treating them that way," Mitchell said.

Latino activists note that the GOP motions mostly serve to underscore current law, which already denies benefits to immigrants who aren't living here legally.

Few of them would have much effect on illegal immigrants, though some would force U.S. citizens and legal residents to show identification that they may not easily be able to provide.

"It does create the impression that immigration is the only thing that Republicans want to talk about," said Cecelia Muñoz, vice president for advocacy at the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino civil-rights group in the country. "It allows them to play into the erroneous belief that undocumented immigrants are accessing these programs."

The pressure from Republicans also helped persuade Democrats to drop even legal immigrant children from legislation to renew the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, though that bill's ultimate fate is uncertain after President Bush's veto.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is pushing Democratic leaders and lawmakers to stand firm against the GOP strategy. But even some of the caucus' members acknowledged that the Republican pressure could prove tough to resist in the long run.

"I understand the sense of self-protection," said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., a member of the Hispanic Caucus. "I don't like it, but I understand it."

Reach the reporter at or 1-(202)-906-8123.

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