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NYT: Senators Renew Debate on Immigration Bill

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  • Ram Lau
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/24/us/politics/24cnd-immig.html June 24, 2007 Senators Renew Debate on Immigration Bill By CHRISTINE HAUSER Senators renewed
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 24, 2007
      June 24, 2007
      Senators Renew Debate on Immigration Bill

      Senators renewed their debate over the immigration bill today ahead of
      the measure's expected return to the Senate floor this week.

      "I believe we will pass the bill, and I think we have good support
      among the Republican Party," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, from
      Massachusetts, who is the chief Democratic architect of the bill and
      has been its staunchest defender. "And the reason we're going to pass
      this bill is because it's tough, fair and practical," he said on the
      ABC News program "This Week."

      Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a leading Republican opponent of the
      bill, said support for it was continuing to drop.

      "A lot of key senators that were thought to be supportive have
      announced in recent days that they don't support it," he said on ABC.
      "The poll numbers continue to plummet."

      "We're going to use every effort to slow this process down and
      continue to hold up the bill and read it to the American people and
      show them that even though they may favor the ideals of the
      legislation, that the legislation won't get us there, and we're going
      to need a national commitment from the president through the Congress,
      really a mindset change, in which we say, `We can make this system
      lawful,' " Mr. Sessions said.

      The remarks by these senators and others came on Sunday talk shows
      after President Bush, in his weekly radio address this weekend, urged
      members of both parties to support the comprehensive overhaul of the
      nation's immigration laws.

      "This bill provides an historic opportunity to uphold America's
      tradition of welcoming and assimilating immigrants and honoring our
      heritage as a nation built on the rule of law," Mr. Bush said. "We
      have an obligation to solve problems that have been piling up for
      decades. The status quo is unacceptable. We must summon the political
      courage to move forward with a comprehensive reform bill."

      "By working together, we can pass this good bill and build an
      immigration system worthy of our great nation," he said.

      The president has been stepping up lobbying on behalf of the crippled
      immigration bill. Last week, he visited the Capitol to try to assure
      wary Senate Republicans that border security was a driving force
      behind his push for changes in immigration law.

      The sweeping immigration overhaul stalled in the Senate on June 7 when
      senators rejected a Democratic call to cut off debate and move toward
      a final vote on the compromise legislation after Republicans
      complained that they had not been given enough opportunity to reshape
      the sprawling bill.

      A bipartisan group of senators brokered the compromise bill that tried
      to balance stricter border enforcement with a means for many of the 12
      million people who are in the United States illegally to eventually
      become citizens. Opponents of the legislation asserted that it
      rewarded those entered the country illegally.

      President Bush has been pushing for a comprehensive immigration bill
      that calls for more border security, a guest worker program and a
      "merit-based system" of selecting immigrants that emphasizes education
      and job skills.

      The bill pending in the Senate would also offer legal status and work
      permits to most of the illegal immigrants. Those who have been in this
      country since Jan. 1 could get legal status and special "Z visas,"
      renewable every four years. They would have to leave the United States
      if they wanted to apply for permanent-residence visas, or green cards.

      Mr. Kennedy said today that this bill would carry what he called the
      greatest commitment to border security in the nation's history, with
      $4.4 billion going into border security.

      "Beyond that, it's fair," he said. "It says to the undocumented here:
      `You're going to go to the back of the line, to all of those that are
      waiting to come to the United States, who have been playing by the
      rules, you go to the end, back of the line. You pay a hefty fee. You
      learn English. You demonstrate that you pay taxes, and you demonstrate
      a good work record.' "

      Mr. Sessions said that he supported comprehensive overhaul of
      immigration law, but that "this bill will not achieve that vision."

      "It will not work," he said. "We will be on the verge of giving an
      amnesty for 12 million people, but not getting a legal system in the
      future that will work, and that's the difficulty.

      Other lawmakers suggested that the extent of support for the bill was
      not yet clear. The Senate is expect Tuesday to vote again on cutting
      off debate. The last attempt at closure on June 7 received only 45 of
      the 60 votes needed to pass.

      "We'll see if between the two parties we have 60 votes" needed to keep
      the bill moving toward a final vote, said Senator Dianne Feinstein,
      Democrat of California, on "Fox News Sunday."

      That would allow about 25 amendments, said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat
      of Oregon, on CNN's "Late Edition." "So we'll have a long discussion,"
      he said.

      Senator Trent Lott, Republican from Mississippi, said he was not yet
      committed to voting for the final product. "The wheels may come off,"
      he said on Fox. "But I am committed to trying."
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