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Immigration: The shrinking GOP reform caucus

From msnbc.com's Tom Curry:

Lisa Murkowski's uncertain future and John McCain's victory in Arizona's GOP primary this week are reminders that in the summer of 2006 -- four long years ago – there was a Republican immigration reform bloc which voted for allowing illegal immigrants to become legal residents.

Both Murkowski and McCain were members of that pro-reform bloc, as was Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.
Twenty-three Republican senators voted for the 2006 McCain-Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform, which passed the Senate by a vote of 62 to 36.

At most, only seven of those 23 GOP senators will still be members when the Senate convenes next January.

They are: McCain, McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, and Richard Lugar of Indiana. Add Murkowski, if she prevails once absentee ballots are tallied in Alaska.

But the other 16 Republican reform supporters from 2006 are gone from the Senate, or soon will be.

Defeated this year were Robert Bennett of Utah and former Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Retiring at year's end are three more: Sam Brownback, Judd Gregg, and George Voinovich. Mel Martinez left the Senate last year.

Defeated in 2008 were Norm Coleman, Gordon Smith, and Ted Stevens. Another five GOP senators retired that year. Two more were defeated in 2006.
In a few cases, the pro-reform GOP senators were replaced by liberal Democrats who'd support an immigration measure along the lines of the McCain-Kennedy bill. For instance, liberal Republican Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who voted for the McCain-Kennedy bill, was defeated in 2006 by liberal Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, who voiced support for the legislation.

But in other cases, a likely anti-reform vote will replace a pro-reform vote. In Utah, conservative Mike Lee is almost certain to win in November after having defeated Bennett in Utah.

Lee says on his campaign web site that Congress must ensure that "illegal aliens will not receive amnesty in any form, and must return to their own countries before applying for a visa."

He also supports Graham's idea of ending the automatic granting of citizenship to children born in the United State to illegal immigrant mothers.
By the way, the then junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, voted for the 2006 McCain-Kennedy bill.

It included a provision that said state and local police and sheriffs "have the inherent authority of a sovereign entity to investigate, apprehend, arrest, detain, or transfer to Federal custody" non-citizens in order to help enforce "the criminal provisions of the immigration laws of the United States in the normal course of carrying out the law enforcement duties of such personnel."

It added, "This State authority has never been displaced or preempted by a Federal law."

The exact extent of that state authority is one issue in the Obama administration's legal battle to block enforcement of Arizona's much-debated SB 1070 which sets up an immigration status-verification system to be used by police.