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GOP Senators Seek Immigration Compromise

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/immigration;_ylt=AoNPcZa3vERDv4OHn_jEoces0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ-- GOP Senators Seek Immigration Compromise By SUZANNE
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2006

      GOP Senators Seek Immigration Compromise

      By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer 29 minutes

      WASHINGTON - Republican senators uncertain of support
      for a proposal to allow illegal immigrants with jobs
      to remain in this country reached for a compromise
      late Monday to bolster votes for the measure.

      Meeting into the evening in the office of Majority
      Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., the lawmakers considered
      allowing illegal immigrants who have been in the
      country more than five years or have other connections
      to the United States to remain legally and eventually
      seek citizenship.

      "We're looking at the roots concept, and that is if
      they have been here more than five years," Sen. Arlen
      Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., said after
      leaving the meeting. "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."

      The fate of those with less time in the country was
      unclear, but Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary
      Committee, suggested they might be asked to go to
      ports of entry, like the Texas border city of El Paso.

      A similar proposal was made in Specter's committee for
      younger, unmarried and more recent illegal immigrants
      before they re-entered as authorized guest workers.

      Specter said the proposals — mostly brought forward by
      Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. — would be spelled out to
      other Republicans on Tuesday morning.

      "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," he said.

      Frist had raised the possibility of a compromise in a
      Sunday talk show, saying illegal immigrants in the
      country are not a monolithic group.

      "Some have been here 10 years. They're assimilated to
      our society and they may have a road to a green card,"
      he told CNN's "Late Edition." "But some of those 12
      million people here — in fact, 40 percent — have been
      here for less than five years, need to be dealt in a
      different fashion."

      The evening work was a sign of the pressure senators
      are feeling to get a bill passed by week's end. Hagel
      and Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who also participated
      in the meeting, said they were looking for a bill that
      would appeal to a broader base and clear the Senate to
      begin negotiations with the House.

      The House passed a tougher bill last year that would
      make being in the country illegally a felony.

      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.

      Earlier Monday, the Senate voted 91-1 in favor of a
      proposal by Sen. Lamar Alexander (news, bio, voting
      record), R-Tenn., to allow legal immigrants fluent in
      English to become U.S. citizens in four years rather
      than five.

      An estimated 7.2 million legal permanent residents
      have lived in the United States long enough to become
      Americans, according to the Homeland Security
      Department's Citizenship and Immigration Services
      office. The wait to become an American is five years,
      three years if the legal permanent resident marries a
      U.S. citizen.

      Alexander said a shorter naturalization wait might
      motivate more green card holders to seek U.S.

      President Bush is backing proposals for temporary work
      programs "because that will relieve pressure off the
      border," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

      "It will allow our Border Patrol agents to focus on
      the criminals and the terrorists, the smugglers and
      traffickers that are trying to come into this country
      for the wrong reasons."

      Also Monday, the Senate voted 84-6 in favor of
      providing $50 million over five years for crime
      fighting by local law enforcement agencies within 100
      miles of the U.S.-Mexican border. The House authorized
      $100 million over a year for local officials within 25
      miles of the border.

      Earlier, a Senate panel wrestled with how to reduce a
      backlog of immigration cases in federal appeals
      courts. Most of the appeals involve people seeking
      asylum or those who are refugees. The appeals have
      risen from 1,723 cases in 2000 to 12,349 in 2005.

      Sen. Lamar Alexander's amendment is S1815.


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