WASHINGTON The Senate opened its first hearing on a comprehensive immigration overhaul Wednesday with a call from a committee chairman for swift action on a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal aliens.
Tensions quickly emerged as shouting protesters interrupted the hearing and Republicans called for border security first.
“The president is right: Now is the time,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told a packed hearing room a day after President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to renew his call for immigration reform and eventual citizenship for illegal aliens.
The emotions surrounding the issue were on display as protesters shouted down the first witness, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, calling for an end to deportations.
The protesters were ushered out. Napolitano declared the border more secure than ever and rejected the argument that border security must be the focus before comprehensive immigration reform or any pathway to legalization can be done.
A top committee Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., quickly contradicted her and Leahy, saying the administration has not focused sufficiently on enforcement, and contending that “you mean amnesty only, you really mean we’re not going to have enforcement, we’ve got to have amnesty first.”
Read more in Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.