Georgia's senators voted no last week, when a major immigration reform bill passed the U.S. Senate.
"I believe that immigration reform is an important issue that our country must address. That's why I voted to begin debate on this bill several weeks ago," U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said before commenting specifically on S744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which passed 68 to 32. "Although this bill is in some ways an improvement from the immigration bill in 2007, I had hoped that the Senate would produce a bipartisan bill that truly solved the many issues plaguing our nation's outdated immigration system.
"I have said for many years and from day one of this debate that border security is my top priority, and I am disappointed that S744 does not ensure true border security. I voted against S.744 today because it contained several waivers and loopholes that could allow those who are here illegally to obtain green cards before our nation's borders are truly secure," Isakson added. "The Senate vote today (Thursday) is just the beginning of the process. I look forward to seeing what the House produces on immigration reform, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to fix our nation's broken immigration system."
His colleague, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, said he was also disappointed in the bill.
"Legal immigration is the foundation of America. Almost every American can point to the moment when their ancestors came to America to forge a better life for themselves and their families. It is with this strong tradition of acceptance that we must look at immigration reform," Chambliss said. "Any immigration bill must first secure the borders, and then make the path for legal entry smoother. We had a real shot here to do this right. Unfortunately, this bill did not include the verifiable border security piece. Additionally, the agricultural program under this bill had some major flaws."
Chambliss offered some amendments to address issues farmers and ranchers have in accessing a legal workforce, but said he was frustrated they were not considered.
"I hope the House can fix some of the problems my colleagues and I have identified in this bill," he said. "We still have an opportunity to do this in the right way once and for all."
Leadership in the House of Representatives -- Republicans to the Senate's Democratic leadership -- have indicated the bill will not come up in the lower chamber and that new legislation may be introduced.
Lawrenceville Rep. Rob Woodall, a Republican along with Chambliss and Isakson, said he prefers the House approach.
"Today, I have 180 open cases with constituents having problems navigating the current immigration process. These are folks trying to do it the right way," he said Thursday. "In the last year I have served 492 families with the same kinds of troubles. I know that real reform is needed for our broken immigration process, and I know that the details in that reform matter.
"Unfortunately, by tackling immigration reform in a mega bill and refusing to allow important amendments to improve the bill, the Senate is undermining the opportunity for real reform," he said. "Just as the Senate jammed through a flawed health care bill, and now years later America is still learning what is in it, the Senate is jamming America with a mega-immigration bill today."
The House, he said, is taking more time to allow for thoughtful debate.
"By addressing one issue at a time and ensuring that every American has a voice in this critical process, we can ensure that the brightest minds and hardest workers from around the world are able to contribute to our nation's success while preserving the values that make America so special," he said. "Enacting meaningful immigration reform and enforcing the rule of law are not mutually exclusive ideas, and I am committed to working with my colleagues in the House to strike a balance that will achieve both of those goals and make the American people proud."
Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.
Camie Young can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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