Senator Spencer Abraham

By CIS on December 1, 1996

pp. 11-14 in Immigration Review no. 27, Fall/Winter, 1996-97

Elected to the United States Senate in 1994, Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI) serves on the Judiciary, Commerce and Budget Committees. It was in his role as a member of the Judiciary Committee that he gained national prominence last year during the debate over the immigration reform legislation introduced by Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY). On the first day of the full Committee's consideration of the legislation, Abraham made clear his intention to separate legal from illegal immigration reform, thus ensuring that cuts in legal immigration would not pass in the Senate (see Immigration Review, No. 25, p.1).

Denying that his goal was to kill legal immigration reform, Sen. Abraham stated on numerous occasions last year that proposals to reform legal immigration deserved to be heard and voted on, but not in conjunction with the debate over illegal immigration. In using this argument, the Michigan Republican succeeded in convincing the Committee to split Sen. Simpson's bill, despite pleas from Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), both of whose states are heavily and adversely affected by mass immigration, unlike Abraham's.

On January 10, 1997, Sen. Abraham was selected by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to chair the Senate Immigration Subcommittee in the 105th Congress. Abraham publicly announced his new position at a press conference at the headquarters of Cypress Semiconductor Corporation in Silicon Valley, where it became apparent that, in fact, he has no intention of allowing a Senate debate of legal immigration levels. Dismissing the fact that illegal immigrants account for less than one-quarter of all immigrants in the United States, Abraham argued that Congress had already eliminated the "excesses of immigration" by passing illegal immigration reform last year. He promised to defend the interests of Cypress and other high-tech companies by blocking legal immigration reform, despite the fact that more than 80 percent of the American public, including Abraham's constituents in Michigan, support much lower levels of legal immigration.