Utah’s Sen. Lee upset at lone immigration hearing
Immigration • Judiciary Committee session is set for April 17.
Published: April 10, 2013 02:24PM
Updated: April 10, 2013 09:38PM
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File -- Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, second from right. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Washington • Senate negotiators haven’t released their immigration proposal yet, but the Judiciary Committee has slated its one, and most likely only, hearing on their ideas for Wednesday.

And the plan is for the committee, which includes Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, to vote on it in early May.

That’s far too fast for Lee, who said he’s “enormously disappointed that my colleagues are looking to rush another 1,000-page bill through the Senate. This is not how important, sweeping changes should be made.”

Lee raised his objections the day after Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie blasted Utah’s GOP senators for trying to slow down immigration reform.

“For them to come out and [say] that they think we need more time is absolutely ridiculous to me,” said Beattie, a fellow Republican and former Utah Senate president. “I don’t know an issue that has had more time, more discussion, more promises, more disappointment than immigration.”

That puts Beattie on the same page as President Barack Obama, who has called for action by the end of the summer, and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who has promised fast action.

Holding the hearing Wednesday is actually a concession made by Leahy at the request of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the bipartisan “gang of eight” developing the plan. Rubio argued for a hearing before a detailed session in May, where senators could offer amendments.

Lee and Hatch were among the signatories of a letter asking for a process modeled after the immigration-reform legislation of the 1980s, which would involve far more than one hearing and could delay the passage of a new bill for years. Hatch has since said he meant that any immigration bill should follow the standard congressional process.

“A single hearing scheduled so quickly to discuss legislative language that is not yet even available,” Lee said, “is completely inadequate for senators or the American people to get answers to the many questions a bill of this magnitude will inevitably raise.”

Utah’s first-term senator was not in office for the defeat of the 2007 immigration reform effort. He said he wants to have Senate discussions on the changing demographics of Mexico, the economic impact of a guest-worker program and the long-term cost of offering legal status to the 11 million people in the country illegally, among other topics.

Lee, Hatch and Utah’s four House members have all said Congress must reform the immigration system but each has rejected any pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

mcanham@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mattcanham

Senate plan to stiffen border security

Washington • Bipartisan immigration legislation being written in the Senate would require surveillance of 100 percent of the U.S. border with Mexico and apprehension of 90 percent of people trying to cross the border in certain high-risk areas, a person familiar with the proposals said Wednesday.

People living here illegally could begin to get green cards in 10 years, but only if a new southern border security plan is in place, employers have adopted mandatory electronic verification of their workers’ legal status and a new electronic exit system is operating at airports and seaports.

A final deal was near on a new visa for agriculture workers. There were small details to be dealt with on visas for high-tech workers, but Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said it wasn’t enough to hold up the bill.

According to the person familiar with the proposals, the new border security requirements call for 100 percent surveillance and a 90 percent apprehension rate of border crossers or would-be crossers in sectors where the majority of unauthorized entries take place.

Meanwhile tens of thousands of pro-immigration activists massed outside the Capitol and in cities around the country to push Congress to act. They waved American flags and carried signs reading, “Reform immigration for America now!”

The Associated Press