Senate kills bids to make legalization more difficult for unlawful immigrants
Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
WASHINGTON (AP) ” The Senate defeated attempts Wednesday to make the immigration bill tougher on people who are in the U.S. unlawfully, including a Republican bid to bar illegal immigrants from getting green cards.
Senators voted 56-41 to set aside the amendment by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., which would have destroyed a central element of the bill granting millions of illegal immigrants an eventual path to citizenship.
Earlier, the Senate killed, by a 53-45 vote, a proposal by Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, to require that all adult illegal immigrants go home within two years to get permanent lawful status. The current bill requires only heads of household seeking permanent legal residency to return home to apply for green cards.
A Democratic amendment restricting legal status to those who have been in the United States for four years also failed. The existing measure would make all those in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2007, eligible for legalization.
The vote to kill that proposal, by Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., was 79-18.
All the amendments were designed to respond to conservatives who decry President Bush’s immigration bill as a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants.
The Senate was also turning to Democratic amendments that would give family members of citizens and legal permanent residents more chances to immigrate.
Without her return-home amendment, Hutchison said, “the amnesty tag that has been put on this bill will remain. It is the key issue in the bill for the American people.”
Webb said his proposal would raise the public’s comfort level with granting lawful status to illegal immigrants.
“People in this country who traditionally would be supporting fair immigration policies, but who are worried about the legalization process in this bill, would come forward and support this,” Webb said.
The revived immigration measure, which also would toughen border security and institute a new system for weeding out illegal immigrants from workplaces, is facing steep challenges from the right and left.
Conservatives call the measure too lenient toward unlawful immigrants, while liberals say it could rip apart families and doom guest workers to exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous employers.
Votes on key amendments were continuing Wednesday afternoon under a complex and carefully orchestrated procedure designed to overcome stalling tactics by conservative foes. It will allow votes only on a limited list of 26 amendments before a critical test-vote on the bill Thursday.
“It’s going to be a rough ride,” said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., an architect of the bill. “We’re in trench warfare.”
Republican framers of the bill were proposing their own, less burdensome return-home requirement for illegal immigrants. It would apply only to heads of household and would give them three years to meet the requirement.
Conservatives, irate at a process that has essentially stymied their ability to filibuster, said Senate leaders were trying to rush through a bad bill.
“The process has not been a pretty one,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
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