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Alabama’s Senators: Bold Defenders of the [Chaotic] Status Quo

February 24, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

Over the President’s Day congressional recess, after some long, sleepless hours of debate on the $787 billion federal stimulus package, Members of Congress were back home in their states explaining their votes on the stimulus package and restating their stance on various issues like the economy, healthcare, the war in Iraq and — in some cases — immigration.


Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) used his home visit to Boaz, Alabama, to reiterate his opposition to immigration reform, as reported by The Gadsden Times,


Shelby also was brought into immigration, a leading concern in Marshall County. He chastised such leaders as President Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain, former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore for being “soft on immigration.” His answer is “enforce the (existing) law.”

(Economy, immigration on Shelby's agenda, February 21, 2009)


So basically, the Senator —who by the way is also making headlines today because of his past questioning of President Obama’s citizenship —believes that the only way out of our immigration problems is through a mass expulsion of some 12 million people from the United States.  Never mind that this system of deportation has already seen the parents of 100,000 U.S. citizens removed from the country in the last ten years.  Never mind that a single worksite raid in Iowa cost taxpayers over $5.2 million, only to deport 50 workers from the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.  At this rate, we have a very long (and expensive!) way to go.


Existing law, the Senator should be reminded, includes waiting times of up to 22 years for legal visas, only 5,000 permanent low-skill worker visas per year for the entire country, and immigration quotas that haven’t been significantly updated in more than 20 years. 


Joining Senator Shelby in his rhetoric-first/solutions-later mantra is Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who tried time and time again to insert counter-productive immigration provisions into the economic stimulus package. Congressional Quarterly reports that,


“Earlier this month, Sessions tried again, pushing an amendment to the stimulus bill that would have extended E-Verify for five years and made it mandatory for employers getting stimulus money.


Sessions’ amendment was never called up for a vote, and similar language in the House version of the stimulus bill was rejected in conference.”

(Lawmakers Squabble Over Extending Authorization of E-Verify Program, February 20, 2009)


E-Verify, the government’s experimental system to verify a worker’s eligibility for work has a long track record of problems, which many times disqualify naturalized and U.S.-born citizens from working.  Instead of offering constructive solutions for our economic woes, Senator Sessions opted to offer further distractions for a speedy economic recovery.  At the end of the day, Sen. Sessions’ colleagues essentially ignored him and were able to keep the focus where it should have been in the first place — stimulating the economy.


People are weary of band-aid approaches to fixing our immigration system, or even worse, politicians like Senator Shelby and Senator Sessions who want to maintain the current state of immigration chaos.  Expecting that we can deport our way out of this problem is not a solution, it’s a sound bite.

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