(USA TODAY) -- After a Senate committee finished poring through the enforcement
sections of a sweeping immigration bill on Thursday, Sen. Chuck
Grassley, R-Iowa, didn't want to dwell on the three amendments he
proposed that were voted down by his colleagues.
He has already been thinking of other ways to change the bill.
core of the immigration bill, which was produced by a bipartisan group
of senators known as the Gang of Eight, remained largely intact after
the third hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee that is considering
more than 300 amendments. Grassley said little had been accomplished to
satisfy him and other Republicans who feel the bill doesn't do enough to
secure the border and ensure that unauthorized immigrants can't find
work in the U.S.
Grassley said he will try to bolster those
provisions on the Senate floor and lobby House members working on their
own version of an immigration bill.
"I had my day in court
(today), and I'm going to have a lot of other days in court," said
Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "It's a
long process. It'll be going on for the next six months, so you
shouldn't be drawing any conclusions right now."
disappointment was met by tempered enthusiasm from members of the Gang
of Eight, and other pushing to pass the bill, which would allow the
nation's unauthorized immigrants the chance to become U.S. citizens.
Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a group that supports
the bill, said having four members of the Gang of Eight on the Senate
Judiciary Committee - Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and
Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and
Dick Durbin of Illinois - allowed them to fight off any amendments that
would critically damage the bill.
"The Gang of Eight has held
strong," Sharry said. "They've accepted a number of Republican
amendments, but none of them undermine the core elements of the bill.
The early threats - the poison pills, the delaying tactics, things that
we thought might actually hurt the process - they've been overcome."
of Thursday's hearing focused on the E-Verify program, a computer-based
system that allow business owners to check the immigration status of
new hires against federal immigration databases.
requires that all U.S. businesses use the program within five years, but
Grassley filed an amendment to require all businesses to use it within
1.5 years. He argued that the program should be implemented as soon as
possible to ensure that unauthorized immigrants don't continue sneaking
into the country and finding work.
"The system is ready to go nationwide," Grassley argued.
the amendment was voted down in part because of concerns over error
rates that persist in the E-Verify program, which is currently being
used by more than 400,000 employers. When U.S. citizens, people with
green cards and foreigners with work visas are run through the system,
less than half of 1% are flagged as ineligible to work.
the committee, such as Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said that figure may
seem small, but it will grow rapidly as the program is rolled out for
the 60 million working Americans who have to go through the system. And
since they would then have to correct their records at a Social Security
office - which are hard to get to in many parts of the country -
Franken said the system needs to working even better before it goes
Graham agreed, but said the program is necessary to
convince enough Republicans worried about future waves of illegal
immigration to vote for the bill.
"If you're going to get this
issue resolved and prevent the third wave, I can't promise you you won't
be inconvenienced," Graham said. "There's going to be some false
positives. We're trying to make it better."
The committee is scheduled to resume hearing amendments on the bill Monday morning.