Illegal Immigration Foes Target Senate Offices

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - Senators enjoying a week-long recess in their home states are being targeted by opponents of illegal immigration who are expected to deliver thousands of petition signatures opposing the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform proposals.

Volunteers with the conservative activist website on Thursday began delivering petitions to senators' home offices opposing the immigration bill that the Senate will consider when it returns to session June 4.

The bill would give illegal immigrants a chance to remain in the United States by paying fines and undergoing background checks. It would also create a guest worker program and increase efforts to secure the U.S. border with Mexico.

Conservative opponents of the bill say it gives illegal immigrants "amnesty."

And as Cybercast News Service previously reported, the bill has also come under fire from liberals who believe its punishments are too harsh and that the proposal does not address the underlying factors that create incentives for immigrants to enter the U.S. illegally.

"Time is so short on the amnesty debate," Grassfire President Steve Elliott said in a release. "We needed to move quickly giving citizens an opportunity to sound off against the proposed amnesty legislation while also getting them personally involved."

Volunteers are delivering the group's "national 'no amnesty' petition," an online petition that so far has received more than 638,000 signatures, according to Elliott.

The petition opposes amnesty and calls for secure borders. It also lets signatories support specific proposals including aggressive deportation, stricter punishment of employers who hire illegal aliens, and making English the country's official language.

Volunteers in all 50 states will deliver petitions to Senate offices, according to Elliott, who told Cybercast News Service his group has "never seen a response like we've seen since the Bush-Kennedy amnesty bill was announced. We have never seen grassroots citizens this upset and this engaged in a debate."

Elliott said had to turn away volunteers, because so many offered to deliver petitions during the two-day event. He said members were "extremely frustrated that the Bush White House and many members in the Senate are so totally out of touch with what's happening in the country."

"The American people simply feel betrayed. They feel like the Bush White House and the Congress have not done what they said they were going to do," Elliott said. "They have not secured the borders, and now they're pressing ahead with another amnesty plan just like 1986, and the American people feel betrayed and are extremely frustrated."

Elliott said his group's efforts against the bill will not end when the last petitions are delivered Friday. It would continue to deliver petitions to Washington, D.C., offices when the Senate returns to session.

He also hinted at a "major [television] campaign we're going to be launching next week that we think can further galvanize citizens to take a stand against this amnesty plan and to pressure our leaders to do what they said they were going to do." He declined to elaborate.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry this week offered its support for the state's embattled Sen. Jon Kyl. Along with other Republicans including Arizona's other senator, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, Kyl has come under fire from conservatives for his vocal support of the bill.

According to the Business Journal of Phoenix, the Arizona Chamber and its national counterpart - the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - support the bill because of its temporary guest worker program, which would add hundreds of thousands of laborers to the country's workforce.

Farmers have also started voicing support for the bill, raising concerns that the current immigration system doesn't provide enough "unskilled" laborers to work the fields, according to the Half Moon Bay (California) Review.

"With limited visas being granted to workers in 'unskilled' fields ... farmers say the trickle of able hands has not been enough to keep up with demand in the agricultural industry," the Review reported Thursday. "Everyone deserves a chance to live the American Dream," one farmer said.

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