On April 5, the day the Senate failed to pass the McCain-Kennedy compromise bill on immigration, DeWine said, “Things do not look very good for any legislation to pass with this stalemate in the Senate....I’m not very optimistic.”
Two days earlier, DeWine voted for the compromise measure. By doing so, he broke with the majority of his fellow Republican senators.
“I thought we had a pretty good bill when it came out of the Judiciary Committee,” he said of McCain-Kennedy.
“It wasn’t perfect," said DeWine of the bill, “but it did what we needed to do. It protected our borders and respected the rule of law. It set up a rational guestworker program that would deal with the 12 million or so people inside the United States illegally and set them on a program where they could continue to work over a period of time if they paid a fine and learned English—if they didn't know it already. They could continue working while they were on the path to citizenship.
“This was a rational approach to bringing these people out of the shadows and into legitimacy,” said DeWine.
Had the compromise bill passed the Senate, it would have gone to the House for reconciliation with its HR 4437—the Sensenbrenner-King bill, which passed last December—what many civil rights leaders have dubbed draconian and racist.
Rep. Ted Strickland, the leading Democratic candidate for Governor of Ohio, was the only Democrat from Ohio or Michigan to vote for HR 4437. He has since issued a statement that he regretted his vote. Four Ohio Republican congressmen voted against the bill.
That bill, which has been denounced by council resolutions across Ohio (from Toledo to Cleveland to Cincinnati to Columbus) and Michigan (from Grand Rapids to Detroit), called for the building of a 700-mile wall to keep undocumented immigrants from attempting to cross the Mexican-US border and would have made felons out of 11-12 million undocumented workers as well as the people who help them.
The resolutions were sent to Ohio’s two Republican senators, DeWine and George Voinovich. Both voted to end the stalemate in the Senate along with Michigan’s two Democratic senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.
Congressional leaders have predicted that when the Senate returns to work following the recess, it may again tackle the issue and pass a fair and comprehensive immigration bill. According to recent statements made by the Republican leadership, the bill would not include the felony designation that has spawned massive protests across the nation for the past three weeks.
Earlier this month, DeWine introduced a private relief bill in the Senate to give permanent resident status to Manuel Bartsch, an 18-year-old German citizen living in Gilboa, Ohio who had been arrested for deportation by federal agents.
DeWine, now completing his second term in the Senate, is expected to face Democratic candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown in the November election.