In Senate personal histories shape immigration views





The immigration debate in the Senate has at times been intensely personal, with senators taking the floor to tell stories of their own immigrant roots. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Italy, Ireland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Cuba rose to describe how their families became American.
"Immigration always has been an issue that goes to the root of what America is all about," said Betty Koed, a Senate historian who wrote her dissertation on the passage of the 1965 immigration act.

In some cases, senators have used their family histories to buttress their positions, as Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., did when he argued against a merit-based point system that would give preference to immigrants with job skills rather than family ties. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., cited his mother's experience as an unwitting illegal immigrant in explaining why he's willing to support the bill.

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