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AP: Immigration Bill Blocked in Senate

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  • Ram Lau
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Congress-Immigration.html June 28, 2007 Immigration Bill Blocked in Senate By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 11:35 a.m. ET
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 28, 2007
      June 28, 2007
      Immigration Bill Blocked in Senate

      Filed at 11:35 a.m. ET

      WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate drove a stake Thursday through President
      Bush's plan to legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, likely
      postponing major action on immigration until after the 2008 elections.

      The bill's supporters fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed to limit
      debate and clear the way for final passage of the legislation, which
      critics assailed as offering amnesty to illegal immigrants. The vote
      was 46 to 53 in favor of limiting the debate.

      Senators in both parties said the issue is so volatile that Congress
      is highly unlikely to revisit it this fall or next year, when the
      presidential election will increasingly dominate American politics.

      A similar effort collapsed in the Congress last year, and the House
      has not bothered with an immigration bill this year, awaiting Senate

      The vote was a stinging setback for Bush, who advocated the bill as an
      imperfect but necessary fix of current immigration practices in which
      many illegal immigrants use forged documents or lapsed visas to live
      and work in the United States.

      It was a victory for Republican conservatives who strongly criticized
      the bill's provisions that would have established pathways to lawful
      status for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. They
      were aided by talk radio and TV hosts who repeatedly attacked the bill
      and urged listeners to flood Congress with calls, faxes and e-mails.

      The bill would have toughened border security and instituted a new
      system for weeding out illegal immigrants from workplaces. It would
      have created a new guest worker program and allowed millions of
      illegal immigrants to obtain legal status if they briefly returned home.

      Bush, making a last-ditch bid to salvage the bill, called senators
      early Thursday morning to urge their support. Homeland Security
      Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez
      approached senators as they entered and left the chamber shortly
      before the vote.

      ''We have been in contact with members of Congress over the past
      couple of days and the president has made it clear that this is
      important to him,'' White House spokesman Tony Snow said before the vote.

      But GOP conservatives led the opposition. They repeatedly said the
      government must secure the borders before allowing millions of illegal
      aliens a path to legal status.

      ''Americans feel that they are losing their country ... to a
      government that has seemed to not have the competence or the ability
      to carry out the things that it says it will do,'' Sen. Bob Corker,
      R-Tenn., said in the debate's final hour.

      Sen. Elizabeth H. Dole, R-N.C., said many Americans ''don't have
      confidence'' that borders, especially with Mexico, will be
      significantly tightened. ''It's not just promises but proof that the
      American people want,'' Dole said.

      But the bill's backers said border security and accommodations to
      illegal immigrants must go hand in hand.

      ''Year after year, we've had the broken borders,'' said Sen. Edward
      Kennedy, D-Mass. ''Year after year, we've seen the exploitation of
      workers. Year after year, we've seen the people who live in fear
      within our own borders. This is the opportunity to change it. Now is
      the time.''

      Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told colleagues that if the bill
      faltered, the political climate almost surely would not allow a
      serious reconsideration until 2009 or later. It would be highly
      unlikely, she said, ''in the next few years to fix the existing
      system... We are so close.''
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