Consensus on Immigration Bill Elusive
By SUZANNE GAMBOA
WASHINGTON Mar 30, 2006 (AP)— Should they stay or should they go, those 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States?
While that question hangs over a Senate debate on border security
and immigration, most senators agree on allowing undocumented workers
to stay at least temporarily. The fight is over whether they should
have to leave three years to six years down the road.
Even senators who oppose providing a path to citizenship to illegal
immigrants are willing to grant them temporary legal status as long as
they register with the government, pay fines and eventually leave.
“Our first obligation is to bring them out of the shadows, make sure
we know who they are, why they’re here, make sure we have a name and
some kind of identification for them,” Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“Then there will be a period of time, whether it’s three years or
six years … but they can continue to work here and at that point in
time that’s where the debate is do they have to go home or are they put
on some sort of path to citizenship?” Frist said.
As the Senate opened two weeks of debate Wednesday night,
Republicans clashed over whether providing a path to legal citizenship
would lead to more flouting of U.S. immigration laws.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert raised the possibility that a program
letting illegal immigrants continue to reside in the U.S. for a period
of time might be considered by the House if the Senate approves one.
“Our first priority is to protect the borders. We also know there is
a need in some sectors of this economy for a guest worker program,”
Hastert told reporters Wednesday.
The House has passed legislation limited to tightening borders and
making it a crime to be in the United States illegally or to offer aid
to illegal immigrants.
However, there is a growing consensus among lawmakers that any
merging of the House and Senate measures so that Congress could send a
bill to President Bush won’t occur until after the November election.