US Senate takes up immigration bill

2013-05-09 14:01
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Washington - A bill to enact dramatic changes to the US immigration system and put about 11 million immigrants here illegally on a path to citizenship, is facing its first congressional test.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday was to begin considering proposed changes to the 844-page bill, with some 300 amendments pending on a wide range of issues that include border security and workplace enforcement, along with Democratic-authored measures to make the legislation more welcoming to immigrant families.

The bill aims to secure the border, provide new avenues for workers to come to the US legally, crack down on employers, who would hire people here illegally, and provide eventual citizenship to millions already in the country.

Although the bill allows citizenship to go forward only after certain border security goals have been met, those "triggers" haven't proven convincing enough for many Republican lawmakers.

Early fights in the committee session are likely to centre on that issue, according to the schedule laid out by Senator Patrick Leahy, the committee's chairperson.

Stronger border measures

Even one of the bill's authors, Florida Republican Marco Rubio, has said border measures need to be stronger, so some changes may be accepted.

But measures offered by some Republican senators would dramatically change the bill's delicately crafted compromises in a way its authors are unlikely to accept.

For example, Senator Charles Grassley, the top committee Republican, has filed an amendment to prohibit anyone from obtaining legal status until the homeland security department has maintained "effective control" of the border for six months — a potentially arduous standard to reach, depending upon how it is defined.

Such measures are "designed to undermine critical components of the bill”, Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Centre, which supports the legislation, told journalists during a conference call on Wednesday.

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