By Al Kamen
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The illegal immigration issue seems to have quieted some on the presidential campaign trail. But Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) tried valiantly to highlight the problem at a House Homeland Security Committee markup of a bill designed to protect the country from chemical attack.

"This is a national security problem," Broun told the lawmakers. "I'm told by people who are involved in helping just monitor the border that roughly 40 percent of the people that are intercepted crossing our border are not Mexicans."

(Actually, the official stats for FY 2007 show slightly less than 7 percent are OTMs, or "Other than Mexicans." The ASICs, or "Aliens from Special Interest Countries" -- most anywhere in the Middle East and a chunk of South Asia -- totaled 297. That's three-hundredths of 1 percent. Still, it's not zero, so let's continue.)

"Some of these people that are coming across the border are from other Central and South American countries," Broun said. "But there is quite a large number of people that are coming across the border that are of Middle Eastern origin as well as Asian origin. A lot of these are single; they have no families. I don't think they're coming here to cut our grass or work in our chicken plants. So I think it is an extremely important issue that we must solve."

Barbour's Old Firm Goes Bipartisan

Veteran Republicans obviously don't anticipate taking the House or Senate any time soon -- even if the Democrats complete their effort to give the White House to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). So the 16-year-old lobbying firm that used to be called Barbour Griffith and Rogers -- that's Barbour as in Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) -- has hired its first Democrat, Michael Meehan, the former communications adviser for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Meehan, most recently chief of staff for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), will be president of the firm's new public relations division, BGR Public Relations, and vice president of the overall firm BGR Holding LLC.

Meehan will literally sit in the office once occupied by Barbour, who co-founded the firm. "It's the sign of the second coming," the firm's chairman, Ed Rogers, told our colleague Jeff Birnbaum, referring to the second coming of the once-all-Republican firm.

There will be more hiring of Democrats at the firm, something it has been contemplating since Black Tuesday -- a.k.a. Election Day 2006, when Democrats won control of Congress -- and Meehan will be in charge of the hiring, Rogers said. Meehan "will build out both the public relations firm and the Democratic component of BGR."

Get those r¿sum¿s updated!

Schieffer Can't Stick to His Gun

CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer was a natural to play a cowboy at the media's Gridiron Club dinner on Saturday night. The Texas-born Schieffer had his own cowboy hat and a "hand-tooled belt I made in high-school leather shop with my name on it," he said yesterday, proudly noting "I can still wear it," 53 years later.

Schieffer added a leather holster and plastic silver six-gun to the outfit and said he was getting ready for the finale when word came backstage not to do a big flourish at the end as if the show were over, because President Bush was going to come up on the stage and sing.

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