U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman are carefully considering possible proposals for a comprehensive immigration reform package in the Senate.
Though there is new momentum for the reform effort, some Republican lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee are concerned that their colleagues may be moving too fast. They want more hearings on the proposal before the committee votes on it.
Senator Pryor says the bipartisan bill could be filed in April or May.
“For the first time since I’ve been here in 10 years, it looks like there’s a real chance to get comprehensive immigration reform passed through the Senate because it is a bipartisan bill,” said Pryor. “You have this group of eight senators, four Democrats and four Republicans working on [the bill] together, and they’re taking time working through the issues so they feel like they’re making progress.”
Pryor says there is no guarantee that the bill will make it out of committee and he has to see the end product before he decides whether he’ll vote for it. Senator Boozman says he’s not in favor of amnesty and securing the border has to be a top priority in any reform measure.
“Another problem we face is 40 percent of the people who are here illegally have overstayed their visas,” said Boozman. “We have got to get a better program in place – and you wouldn’t think so, but there is even some controversy over having an exit visa system so you know if people have actually left [the country] when they’re supposed to.”
Boozman says any measure he would support would also have to hold employers accountable who hire undocumented workers.
Efforts to pass a new assault weapons ban in Congress are effectively over, after Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposal failed to get enough support.
Senator Pryor says he did not support the Feinstein bill, but he is working on a bipartisan proposal with two Republicans and a fellow Democrat that would ensure the accuracy of data accessed during background checks.
“The background check is already on the books and most people in Arkansas that I talk to think that we need to make sure the data in the system is solid and has a lot of integrity,” Pryor said. “People with real mental illness and those who could be a danger to themselves or others should be in [the database], but also there should be a way to take a person’s name off the database under certain circumstances.”
Senator Boozman maintains current laws need to be enforced and new measures should address real problems.
“When you look at violent crime, about 90 percent of the violent crime in America is committed with handguns, five percent with rifles, and well less than one percent with assault style weapons because they’re big and bulky,” said Boozman. “When you start banning assault style weapons it simply doesn’t make any difference… it’s not the problem.”
The struggle to pass an assault weapons ban technically ended Tuesday, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid set aside the Feinstein bill to build support for other proposals that would reduce gun violence. Reid said the assault weapons ban would not be included in the gun violence measure he’ll bring to the Senate floor, but Feinstein’s bill would be offered as an amendment.