WASHINGTON — It's fair to say Sen. Chuck Grassley sees room for improvement in the pending Senate immigration proposal.
After all, the Iowa Republican has filed 77 amendments to the legislation.
Grassley is poised to play a key role in the immigration debate as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, which starts considering revisions on the immigration bill today.
Immigration is likely to dominate the Senate in the near future, and Grassley said his goal during both committee and floor consideration of the bill is to avoid the mistakes that Congress made when it addressed immigration in 1986.
“We're here now because we didn't fix the problem 27 years ago,” he said. “We learned then or as a result of 1986 that rewarding illegality only leads to more illegality.”
Grassley has said he wants to slow things down and take as much time as necessary to improve the bill. He also said the amendment process can be used to educate the public on what the legislation would actually do.
Some advocates for the immigration bill have suggested that the flood of amendments represents an effort to kill the legislation, a suggestion that Grassley rejected.
“It's intellectually dishonest for any person or group of people to say that this is an effort to scuttle it when we all know that the system is already broken and it needs to be fixed,” he said.
His amendments to the immigration proposal are among more than 300 filed by Republicans and Democrats. Although it's unclear how many will actually be brought up for consideration, the amendment process could drag on for days or weeks.
Grassley said he agrees with other assessments that a proposal to give equal treatment to gay couples under immigration law would probably kill the legislation.
He said some are trying to use the immigration measure to carve out special provisions that would benefit everything from cruise ships to ski schools.
Still, one of his proposed amendments strays a bit from the central immigration issues. It would restrict visas to those coming from South Korea until that country drops all age-based restrictions on U.S. beef exports.
Those restrictions were put in place years ago in response to mad cow fears and have been a regular source of friction between the two countries.
But the main fireworks will be over matters such as a path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally and securing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Grassley said he and others will focus on border security.
“It's a lesson that I learned in 1986,” he said.
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