Times Frets: Congress Not Yet on Board Amnesty Bandwagon

Uh-oh: Immigration legislation doomed by Congress "moving to the right to assuage conservatives who helped derail" it last year.

Rachel Swarns, who chided Republicans for daring to use immigration as a political issue before the 2006 Congressional elections, wondered on Friday whetherany kind of immigration legislationwould pass the Democrat-controlled House.

"House lawmakers stood before the television cameras on Thursday and hailed the introduction of a new measure to secure the border and move millions of illegal immigrants toward citizenship....Key lawmakers in both chambers seem to be moving to the right to assuage conservatives who helped derail immigration legislation last year. Now there are doubts as to whether Congress will actually send an immigration bill to President Bush this year.

"Only a few months ago, Democrats and Republicans alike were predicting that immigration legislation would move relatively smoothly - with bipartisan support - through the new Democratic-controlled Congress. Lawmakers and advocates for immigrants remain hopeful that that can still happen, but they said the political environment had changed.

"'I don't know why we were so naïve to think that things were going to go so swimmingly,' said Michele Waslin of the National Council of La Raza, an immigration advocacy group, who addressed concerns about the stalemate in the Senate. 'I sincerely hope the process gets back on track very soon.'

"Democratic leaders say Republican backing is critical, both to ensure passage of a bill in the Senate and to protect newly elected moderate and conservative Democrats in the House, some of whom campaigned against legalizing illegal immigrants.

"Democrats and Republicans stood side by side at the House news conference Thursday. But the possibility of a partisan rift remains palpable, particularly in the Senate.

"Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is running for president, has distanced himself from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat, as Mr. McCain has faced a barrage of criticism from conservatives who oppose his support of the legalization of illegal immigrants. The two men joined forces last year to help pass the Senate bill, which would have put most of the nation's illegal aliens on a path to citizenship."

Notice the unbalanced labeling by Swarns - while her story cited conservatives on three occasions, the liberal Hispanic interest group National Council of La Raza ("the race") was simply termed an "immigration advocacy group."