Tuesday, April 4, 2006

More compromises in Senate on immigration

In an effort to reach a compromise that could find the sixty votes needed to break a filibuster, Senate Republicans mulled over a proposal that would get tough on new undocumented immigrants while allowing those who have been here at least five years a path to citizenship.

In meetings Monday, the talks led by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) centered around a plan, still in it's early stages, that would separate the undocumented population into two basic groups; those who can produce pay stubs, billing records and other documents to prove they have been living and working in the US for at least five years, and those who can't. Those who have a history here would then qualify for a work visa and the ability to eventually apply for a green card and citizenship. The fate of those who have arrived in the last five years was unclear but Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) suggested that they might be asked to go ports of entry such as El Paso and from there be returned to their native countries.

"We're looking at the roots concept, and that is if they have been here more than five years," said Specter, "That is a reasonable line as to people who have roots who ought to be treated differently. And if they have been here less then five years, they do not have roots to the same extent and can be treated differently, and that is what we're looking at." He went on to say, "What we're trying to figure out is something which will be workable so 11 million undocumented will come forward, not create a fugitive class"

(more below the fold)

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The compromise is aimed at appeasing a group of conservatives who opposed to any program that offers illegal immigrants a way to stay in the country and work toward citizenship, which they term "amnesty." Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has been reluctant to bring any bill to the floor that isn't supported by the majority of Republicans.

The Senate began its second week of debate Monday on immigration, but had yet to resolve which of three major proposals it would move forward.

A bill approved by the Judiciary Committee - based on a proposal by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. - would allow illegal immigrants in the United States before Jan. 7, 2004 and who have jobs, to work legally for an additional six years and eventually become citizens. The proposal has drawn opposition from some who consider it amnesty.

A proposal by Frist does not deal with illegal immigrants but boosts border enforcement and cracks down on employers who hire illegal workers.

A third bill proposed by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., would give illegal immigrants up to five years to leave the country before they can return legally to apply for permanent residence or be guest workers.

Frists efforts to reach a consensus may be for naught as the Judiciary bill appears to be gaining traction. The bill currently has the support of virtually all 44 Democratic senators and as many as a dozen Republicans, including moderates such as Sen. Mike DeWine (Ohio) and conservatives such as Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.). Aides to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of the bill's authors, believe the measure could have enough support by week's end to cut off debate, but it is expected to be close.

In the mean time Republicans will continue to work against the clock in an effort to reach a compromise that would satisfy the divergent interests within the party.

sources: AP, Washington Post

To veiw the final version of the Judiciary bill that will go to the floor HERE

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