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Senators Ron Johnson, Tammy Baldwin talk immigration and the House

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MADISON (WITI) — The sweeping immigration reform that passed in the U.S. Senate last month has been halted in the House, as the GOP has found flaws in the plan. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson are speaking about what they think of the prospects for this legislation.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives wants some major changes in the Senate plan, and will likely pass a completely different bill, and there’s no real sign of anything happening soon.

As House members continue to squabble, Wisconsin’s senators are working behind-the-scenes to ensure their preferred version of the bill gets through the House.

An immigration overhaul sailed through the Senate with bipartisan support in a 68-32 vote last month.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson cast one of the “no” votes, saying the Senate plan doesn’t begin to fix the problem, so he’s working with House members to ensure his ideas are part of any new bill.

“I’ve been in serious discussions with members of the House, trying to encourage them to pass the right kind of immigration reform,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s counterpart, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin is also working behind-the-scenes to put pressure on the House, saying the Senate plan represents a bipartisan compromise.

“The Senate has recently passed — on a broad bipartisan basis — a significant overhaul to our immigration system, as well as a five-year farm bill — and we’re finding in both instances, that these two bills have gotten mired by partisan politics in the House of Representatives,” Baldwin said.

The Senate immigration bill has six key provisions. It:

  • provides a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants
  • increases border control measures
  • raises the cap on high-skilled visas
  • allows up to 200,000 guest workers a year
  • changes the Family Visa Program
  • requires all employers to verify a worker’s status

The House Republican leaders have said it will not take up the Senate measure, instead taking a narrower focus — a bill that would focus only on security.

“Basically what the Democrats always do with immigration reform is they hold border security hostage for citizenship. So what we’re going to say is, ‘no, what we want to do is actually secure the border,” Johnson said.

“The system is broken. This measure has a lot of provisions that are very helpful in our state of Wisconsin, where especially in the agricultural sector,  there is a real need for a fix to our current broken situation,” Baldwin said.

There are about 85,000 undocumented immigrants in Wisconsin.

Johnson says the first step should be registration.

“People who don’t register, they are going to be subject to deportation because they probably are feeding off the welfare system or are committing crimes,” Johnson said.

“We’ve got to see action — and frankly, citizens play a big role when they speak out and insist on Congress getting its act together and facing the real challenges that they face on a day-to-day basis,” Baldwin said.

A key player in whether anything gets done in the House is Janesville Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan says the House won’t pass the Senate bill, but he is trying to work toward a consensus between both parties.

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