Briefs 0328


Senators promise immigration overhaul bill by April

NOGALES, Ariz. — A bipartisan group of senators crafting a sweeping immigration bill vowed Wednesday that they would be ready to unveil it when Congress reconvenes in less than two weeks after getting a firsthand look at a crucial component of their legislation: security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The four senators — Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado — are members of the so-called Gang of Eight, which is close to finalizing a bill aimed at securing the border and putting 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship

The lawmakers’ reassurance that their work would be complete by the week of April 8 came after a public feud erupted between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO over a low-skilled worker provision in the bill — a spat that remained alive Friday as Congress began a two-week recess. But Flake noted Wednesday that negotiations over the worker program had resumed; an AFL-CIO negotiator also confirmed the talks were back on.

During the tour, the senators saw border agents apprehend a woman who had climbed an 18-foot-tall bollard fence.

“You can read and you can study and you can talk but until you see things it doesn’t become reality,” said Schumer, who toured the border for the first time. “I’ll be able to explain this to my colleagues. Many of my colleagues say, ‘Why do we need to do anything more on the border?’ and we do. We should do more.”

Colo. shooting suspect offers guilty plea to avoid death penalty

DENVER — Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes has offered to plead guilty and serve the rest of his life in prison to avoid the death penalty — a deal that would bring a swift end to the sometimes wrenching courtroom battle and circumvent a prolonged debate over his sanity.

Prosecutors haven’t said whether they would accept the offer, and victims and survivors of last summer’s massacre were divided on what should be done.

Melisa Cowden, whose ex-husband was killed in the theater, said Wednesday she was resolutely opposed to a plea deal.

“He didn’t give 12 people the chance to plea bargain and say, ‘Let’s see if you’re going to shoot me or not,’” said Cowden, whose two teenage daughters were with their father when he was killed.

“No. No plea bargain,” she said.

Pope Francis seems reluctant to be pontiff

VATICAN CITY — He still goes by “Bergoglio” when speaking to friends, seems reluctant to call himself pope and has decided to live in the Vatican hotel rather than the grand papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace.

It might seem as if Pope Francis is in a bit of denial over his new job as leader of the world’s 1.2-billion Catholics. Or perhaps he’s simply changing the popular idea of what it means to be pope, keeping the no-frills style he cultivated as archbishop of Buenos Aires in ways that may have broad implications for the church.

The world has already seen how Francis has cast aside many trappings of the papacy, refusing to don the red velvet cape Benedict XVI wore for official occasions and keeping the simple, iron-plated pectoral cross he used as bishop and archbishop.

Today, his belief that a pope’s job is to serve the world’s lowliest will be on display when he washes the feet of a dozen young inmates at a juvenile detention center in Rome. Previous popes have celebrated the Holy Thursday ritual, which re-enacts Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet before his crucifixion, by washing the feet of priests in one of Rome’s most ornate basilicas.

Such moves hint, even at this early stage, only two weeks into his papacy, at an apparent effort by Francis to demystify the office of pope.

By wire sources