Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Immigration issues top new agenda

Pasadena Star-News - World News

mmigration issues top new agenda

Southern California lawmakers are facing a busy session

By Lisa Friedman , Washington Bureau

As the 109th congressional session opened Tuesday, immigration topped the agenda of Southern California lawmakers, from securing borders against illegal aliens to opening the Oval Office doors to naturalized citizens.

Other first-day measures include a continued drive to remove perchlorate from Southern California waters, increase home ownership and improve job-training programs.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would allow any foreigner who has been a U.S. citizen at least 20 years to seek the presidency.

It could pave the way for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for the nation's highest office, but Sherman said that wasn't the main reason for sponsoring the bill.

"This bill is not about the election prospects of any one man or woman. It is about the dreams of all Americans,' he said.

In addition to the Austrian-born governor, Schiff noted the bill could also help Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat from Vancouver, whom Sherman jabbed "could beat up my governor.'

The amendment mirrors one pushed last year by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beachm who plans to reintroduce it soon.

Meanwhile, Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora, reintroduced a call for fraud-resistant Social Security cards that anyone applying for a job immigrant or native-born would be required to present to an employer.

The measure has drawn concern from civil libertarians who charge that creating a national identification card could erode individual rights. But Dreier has maintained the cards would be used only when seeking new employment, not as routine identification.

Dreier's bill also would impose a $50,000 fine and prison time on anyone who knowingly hired an illegal immigrant. In a slight change from last year, the new bill also would authorize 10,000 new homeland security officers to enforce compliance.

"It's a good plan that can help the border patrol better do its job, as well as help employers stay in compliance with the federal law,' he said.

For the most part, bills put forth Tuesday have been around Capitol Hill before. Many failed in years past or became mired in legislative gridlock.

For some lawmakers, introducing a bill on the first day of a new session is a symbolic way of marking it as one of his or her top priority's for the year.

-- Lisa Friedman can be reached at (202) 662-8731, or by e-mail at .

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