What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : Assisting Crime Impacted Communities : S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Amendment by Kennedy of Massachusetts that would expand the list of crimes that can disqualify illegal aliens from applying for legal immigration/On agreeing to the amendment
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S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Amendment by Kennedy of Massachusetts that would expand the list of crimes that can disqualify illegal aliens from applying for legal immigration/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 186     Jun 06, 2007
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This vote was on an amendment by Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., that would prevent illegal immigrants from applying to legitimize their residency if they were a member of a terrorist organization, a known gang member, a sex offender, someone who had smuggled aliens using firearms and those convicted of felony drunk driving offenses. The amendment was offered to a measure that would overhaul America's immigration system.

Kennedy's amendment was introduced as an alternative to a broader amendment offered by John Cornyn, R-Texas. Cornyn's amendment would have cracked down on illegal immigrants who are violent offenders, but it also would have included those who have repeatedly violated court-ordered deportations.

This goes to the heart of the debate over whether the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in America and contributing to its economy should be given a chance at citizenship (often called "amnesty"), or deported for being scofflaws. This question has engendered significant strife and has not been easy to negotiate, particularly since it would mean breaking up some families. (Many illegal immigrants have lived in the U.S. for decades and have given birth to children who by law are considered American citizens; in many cases, the parents would have to be deported, but their children would not.) Though these questions sometimes split down regional rather than partisan lines, Democrats generally favor some sort of partial amnesty. Republicans generally oppose any such attempts, believing that amnesty essentially rewards immigrants that have flouted U.S. immigration laws, even as others have patiently waited their turn at legal citizenship.

Kennedy said his amendment would mirror Cornyn's amendment when it comes to violent offenders, but would not harm those who simply violate deportation orders.

The Cornyn amendment, Kennedy said, would keep illegal immigrants "in the shadows where employers abuse and underpay them. That hurts the immigrants, but it hurts American workers, too, by depressing wages. The Cornyn amendment does this by classifying an array of common garden variety immigration offenses as crimes that would make them ineligible for the program" established by the bill, Kennedy said. "Cornyn says: If you have used false identification, you may be found inadmissible and may be deported. But in our broken system, the people who have wanted to work have been forced to use the false identification."

Cornyn said that voting for Kennedy's amendment instead of his would be to demonstrate that the Congress is "not serious, that we do not believe the rule of law deserves respect because, unfortunately, under the Kennedy amendment, the alternative is literally [sic] a figleaf that has been offered to give people the sense they voted for something so they will have an explanation, even knowing they have not voted to exclude these felons."

By a vote of 66-32, the Senate adopted Kennedy's amendment. Democrats were unanimous in supporting the amendment. Most Republicans voted against the amendment, though 16 voted for it. Thus, the bill went forward with language that would expand the list of violent crimes for that would prevent illegal aliens from applying for legal immigration. This does not include violating court-ordered deportations. (Cornyn's amendment was later defeated.)

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