An April 12 CNSNews.com article by Susan Jones passed along a statement from House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist attacking Senate Democrats, "making it clear that it was Democrats who insisted on making unlawful presence in the United States a felony rather than a misdemeanor." But neither the statement nor CNS' attempt at a "clarification" tells the truth about the issue.
To Hastert and Frist's statement that "there were 191 House Democrats who voted to oppose House Republican efforts to reduce the crime of unlawful presence in the United States from a felony to a misdemeanor. Instead, they voted to make felons out of all of those who remain in our country illegally," Jones added only, parenthetically, "Some conservative Republicans also favored making unlawful presence a felony."
A "clarification" later added to the article states that "a majority of House Republicans wanted to elevate the violation to a misdemeanor; but Democrats proposed making it a felony -- to undermine the entire bill by making it appear too harsh, according its sponsor, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)."
That's false. Sensenbrenner himself put the felony provision in the bill at the beginning, and it was passed by the House in December in that form with only 36 Democrats supporting the bill. Thus, it is Republicans who are flip-flopping on the issue after negative public reaction and trying to reduce it to a misdeameanor; Democrats oppose criminalizing it at all (it's currently a civil violation), plus they're not terribly motivated to help save the Republicans' bacon.