WASHINGTON — Two of America’s thorniest issues - immigration reform and gun control - will be the focus of deliberations in the U.S. Senate this week. Rare bipartisanship has emerged on both issues, boosting prospects for legislative action.
Months of negotiations between a group of Democratic and Republican senators have yielded a bipartisan immigration reform bill, expected to be unveiled later this week. Reports say the proposal would provide a rigorous path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that is conditioned upon heightened U.S. border security.
Last week there were rallies from Washington to Los Angeles demanding action.
Reform opponents want America’s borders secured before laws are changed. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies.
“That is a debate we should not even have until we have in place the enforcement tools, and we have allowed them to work for a couple years," he said.
On another key issue, the Senate voted last week to consider gun reform.
Bills include a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks for firearms purchases. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said, “We have an agreement on an amendment to prevent criminals and the mentally ill and insane from getting firearms and harming people.”
Deliberations come four months after a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. Saturday, the parent of a child gunned down in that shooting delivered President Barack Obama’s weekly address.
“Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy," said Francine Wheeler, mother of one of the Newtown shooting victims.
But not all lawmakers believe firearms restrictions will improve public safety.
Republican Senator Mike Lee said, “Any limitation on this fundamental right of self defense makes us more dependent on our government for our own protection. Government cannot be everywhere at all times, so the practical effect of limiting our individual rights is to make us less safe.”
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy disagrees. “Liberty is not about having any gun you want anytime you want it. Liberty also has to be about the right to be free from indiscriminate violence," he said.
Polls show majorities of Americans favor stricter gun laws and an immigration overhaul.