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National Group Takes Aim At McConnell On Immigration

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell,
who helped revive an immigration bill this week, is drawing
criticism back home in a sharply worded television ad being run by
a national group.
NumbersUSA, which favors restricting immigration, accuses
McConnell of joining liberal icon Ted Kennedy in "strong-arming"
senators to support "amnesty" for millions of illegal aliens.
The group's ad, which started airing Tuesday in Kentucky, says
illegal immigrants have taken jobs from American workers, and says
the legislation "won't even stop future illegal immigration."
The commercial asks people to contact McConnell to urge him to
oppose the measure. NumbersUSA has run similar ads in the home
states of other key lawmakers in the immigration debate.
When asked for comment Wednesday, McConnell's office did not
immediately respond to the ad.
Last week, McConnell called the bill a "mixed bag" and said he
would not decide how to vote on the embattled measure until a long
series of amendments are disposed. The Kentucky Republican
previously said the status quo on immigration is "indefensible."
Kentucky's other senator, Republican Jim Bunning, voted against
reviving the bill this week, and he resumed his criticism of the
measure in a Senate floor speech Wednesday.
"The bottom line is that this bill will not work. It is much
worse than the status quo," said Bunning, adding that it would not
bolster border security and would amount to a
"get-out-of-jail-free pass" to illegal immigrants.
NumbersUSA's push against the bill comes at a crucial time as
the Senate debates the issue.
McConnell was on the prevailing side this week when the Senate
breathed life into the measure, which would potentially legalize
millions of unlawful immigrants. The bill is a top priority for
President Bush.
Supporters say the bill would strengthen border security. It
also would create a temporary worker program and institute a new
system for weeding out illegal immigrants from workplaces.
NumbersUSA spokeswoman Caroline Espinosa said Wednesday the ad
is meant to "keep grassroots pressure" on senators to vote
against the measure. She said McConnell was a key player in the
debate.
"There are Republicans who will follow his lead, whichever way
he goes," she said by phone.
Espinosa said the group's biggest objection to the bill is over
the "amnesty component."
"It rewards their illegal behavior," she said.
The Rev. Patrick Delahanty, associate director of the Catholic
Conference of Kentucky, said such a characterization is wrong.
Under the bill, illegal aliens would have to pay fines, enroll in
English-language programs, be crime free and wait for those
entering the country legally to be processed for citizenship.
"This is not an amnesty," Delahanty said by phone. "This is
recognizing that someone broke the law, and after they pay the
penalties, they can adjust their status."
He said McConnell deserves praise for helping revive the
legislation.
Delahanty said the state's reliance on immigrant labor is a
reality. He said birth rates among Kentuckians aren't high enough
to fill all the available jobs.
"We don't have enough workers in Kentucky," he said. "That's
why people are attracted here, because there are jobs."
In a sign of the issue's complexity, Delahanty said the Catholic
Conference of Kentucky has objections to the bill. Specifically, it
wants a version making it easier on those seeking to immigrate
legally based solely on family ties.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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