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Brown: Immigration reform should focus on economy

By Russell Contreras
Associated Press / November 12, 2010

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BOSTON—Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown said Friday he wants to work with Democrats on possible federal immigration reform, as long as it's not "fluff."

Brown, who replaced the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, a champion of immigrants' rights, told The Associated Press he plans to meet with Senate leaders of both parties about options for reforms. But he said any effort should be focused on improving the economy.

"We're going to get fully briefed as to what (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) has planned," said Brown before the opening of a new wing focusing on art of the Americas at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. "(The Democrats) are still the majority in the Senate, so I'm eager to see whether they are going to do stuff for fluff, or (if) they are going to focus on the things that can get us moving again, getting our economy moving."

Asked if that meant focusing solely on strong enforcement of immigration laws, Brown said, "it's up to the leader on what he's going to bring forth."

Brown said senators are scheduled to meet on Monday. He made those comments almost two weeks after Reid, D-Nev., survived a tight re-election challenge largely by the backing of Latino voters. Reid had championed comprehensive immigration reform measures and has promised to support such legislation.

During Brown's campaign for Senate, he said he would push for restrictions on illegal immigration. He also recently called a proposal to give some illegal immigrant students a pathway to citizenship through college or military service "amnesty."

But Brown also has been a target of President Barack Obama, who has tried to court the Massachusetts Republican on immigration and financial reform since he won a special election in January to replace Kennedy. Kennedy, who died in August 2009 at age 77, championed legislation that directly benefited immigrants, their children and their grandchildren and pushed through the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which fundamentally changed the demographics of the United States.

Meanwhile, some advocates, mainly immigrant students, have staged protests and sit-ins around Brown's office to press him on reforms.

Some immigrant advocates said they were encouraged by Brown's comments Friday. Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrants & Refugee Advocacy Coalition in Boston, said she was glad to hear that immigration reform was on Brown's mind.

"I've very pleased to hear that the senator is willing to work with both parties on immigration," Millona said. "This is a positive sign."