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U.S. Senate pushes immigration reform into limbo

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 6/21/2013, 11:50 a.m.

The only certainty about immigration reform is the continuing uncertainty.

As the bill enters the Senate floor after being ushered through the Judiciary Committee by the "Gang of Eight," a bipartisan group of senators, the anticipated debate, the proverbial horse trading, is underway.

One interesting development occurred last week when Speaker John Boehner met with Sen. Marco Rubio, thereby allowing him into his inner circle, though there's still no indication about the content of the discussion between the speaker, who has been less than forthcoming on immigration, and Rubio, a member of the Gang of Eight.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., continues to feel confident that the Senate will pass the bill by July 4.

During a recent appearance on television, Schumer said that Boehner was in a box. "There are about 60 or 70 of his people who are against any immigration reform, but at the same time, he knows that the Republican Party will be consigned to a minority party for a generation if they're anti-immigration."

Schumer advised Boehner to pay close attention to the Senate vote on the bill and said he hopes to garner a majority of the GOP senators and almost all the Democrats, which he feels is necessary to sway the House Republicans, who have expressed reservations about the bill's path to citizenship and border security, to say nothing of amnesty.

Another troubling concern for all Americans is the bill's possible expansion of the Department of Homeland Security, which would allow its nationwide computer network to snare citizens' driver's license photographs and biographical information.

The system, termed E-Verify, would require employers to confirm the identity and legal status of any new workers, thereby aiding in the halting of illegal immigration. At the moment, the system is voluntary and used by only 7 percent of U.S. employers.

As expected, civil liberties advocates are aroused and concerned that this system will compound an already bad situation that pushes aggressively toward a national ID system. This is particularly distressing at a time when domestic phone records and foreigners' Internet files are under surveillance and being accessed.

To be fully effective, experts on E-Verify contend, the system would have to be considerably expanded. Some officials insist that the system merely accesses other existing databases, i.e., Social Security, to confirm someone's identity.

"Over time, this could become a single, national, searchable database of vital biographic information and photographs of nearly every American," Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told the press. "I want to make sure we embed privacy protections in the system, both in how it is built and administered so that data cannot easily be stolen, and also that the information is only used for legitimate purposes."

In a recent edition of Mother Jones magazine, Chris Calabrese, who works at the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed his concerns about E-Verify, saying that "a comprehensive reform bill that both resolves some privacy concerns and maintains a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrations can pass through with enough votes in the Senate to make it appealing to the House, where Republican hardliners will make it a tougher sell."

And we can be assured of that certainty.