Washington Week: Focus on Immigration

June 09,2013

WASHINGTON — Politicians in Washington will be focused on illegal immigration this week, as members of the U.S. Senate debate a bill to overhaul the nation's immigration system. The measure was crafted by four Democratic and four Republican senators, as well as other prominent issues in Washington this week.

There is widespread agreement within the United States that the U.S. immigration system is flawed.

Senators this week will debate a bill that seeks to comprehensively overhaul that system.

The bipartisan bill would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, streamline the country's legal immigration process and strengthen border security.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said, "It is gratifying to see the momentum behind this package of common sense reforms, which will make our country safer and help 11 million undocumented immigrants get right with the law.

Some critics of the bill say it provides de-facto amnesty for law breakers.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said, "You are not allowed to pay a guide and come across the border illegally and 18 months later demand a pathway to citizenship in the United States. It is just not law.

President Barack Obama has urged the Senate to quickly pass this bill, and he is slated to speak about it at the White House Tuesday.

The immigration bill is not perfect, but it is sensible, the president said in his weekly address.

"This bill would provide a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are already in this country illegally - a pathway that includes passing a background check, learning English, paying taxes and a penalty, and then going to the back of the line behind everyone who's playing by the rules and trying to come here legally," he said.

Even if the immigration bill passes in the Senate, lawmakers in the House of Representatives are considering their own reforms.

Agriculture also is a focus this week, as the Senate prepares to vote on the Farm Bill. The House is expected to take up the package of conservation, nutrition and subsidy programs later this month.

Looking abroad, House members are considering the terrorist attacks in 2008 on India's financial capital, Mumbai. The Pakistani-based terror group responsible for the attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the group's intent or ability to strike the U.S. will be the focus of the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday.

And June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride month, a fact that Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted last week.

"This month is about the assertion of equality and dignity. It is about the affirmation of fundamental freedoms and human rights. It is about people taking pride in who they are, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity," he said.

As of August 1, same-sex marriage will be legal in 12 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia. President Obama is expected to speak at a pride celebration on Thursday.