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Bipartisan panel adds 2 cents to immigration

| Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, 7:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A group of former Republican and Democrat officeholders on Thursday made recommendations on how to overhaul immigration laws.

Members of the Bipartisan Policy Center, including former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, praised the work done on a broad bill that passed the Senate in June and said the House is making good progress. Their advice, they said, brings together concepts embraced by members in both chambers.

“You've got a pretty broad range of views represented, and yet we find that it is possible to find common ground,” said Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

The group is chaired by two Republicans, former secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and ex-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and two Democrats, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, a Clinton appointee, and Rendell.

The main recommendations released by the group focus on border security and a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. In many cases, they combine ideas embraced by the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House.

The bipartisan center supported the Senate's plan of granting temporary legal status to illegal immigrants as they work toward green cards and legalization, a proposal that has drawn sharp criticism in the Republican-led House.

“If there is a rigorous path to citizenship ... I'm comfortable with that,” Barbour said.

The group says that “national security depends on America's ability to enforce its immigration laws at the border.”

The Senate bill would send nearly 20,000 Border Patrol agents to the southwest border.

The bipartisan group said it is necessary for the federal government to develop a better way to understand what exactly is going on at the border.

Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is pushing a bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security to spend six months developing a way to better measure border security.

Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes the Senate bill and advocates lower levels of immigration, said the inclusion of a couple of Republicans in the Bipartisan Policy Center does not mean that its recommendations reflect the thinking of conservatives.

“Everybody's trying to cloak themselves in the mantle of conservatism because they think it's advantageous to convince the House to do what the Senate has done,” Mehlman said. “Is there a consensus of opinion among the American people?”

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