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Michael Barone: Extra care required in crafting immigration reform

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 5:58 a.m. MDT

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, talks with the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013,  during the committee's hearing on comprehensive immigration reform.  (Associated Press) Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, talks with the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, during the committee's hearing on comprehensive immigration reform. (Associated Press)

Columnist and author Michael Barone discusses immigration legislation and the irritation expressed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on March 20.

"For months, I have urged the president to send his proposal for comprehensive immigration reform to the Senate," Leahy noted. He might have added that the White House, with access to the expertise and experience of the Justice and Homeland Security Departments, could easily have come up with a draft.

But the president is holding back, Leahy said, "at the request of a few senators who are engaged in secret, closed-door discussions" to prepare a bill they promised "by the beginning of March," a deadline that "has come and gone."

Barone continues, stating that opponents of legislation will try to stretch the process out until it is too late to act. But it is also true that rubber-stamping the first draft of a bill hundreds of pages long can produce a law rife with unintended and unhappy consequences (see Obamacare).

And it is certainly not true, as White House press secretary Jay Carney argued, that all the issues have already been aired out in the 2006 and 2007 debates on immigration legislation.

Barones argues that given the many aspects of what the United States is facing with immigration today, it doesn't seem unreasonable for the judiciary committees in both houses to spend more than a week on hearings after the unveiling of legislative language.

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