Senate immigration bill on track after vote
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Backers of a comprehensive immigration overhaul said they were optimistic about Senate passage later this week after lawmakers on Tuesday rejected a move to expand a compromise bill’s provision giving illegal immigrants a chance for citizenship.
In a vote of 37-61, the Senate rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that the California Democrat said would have streamlined the legalization process for some of the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants.
The vote showed the fragile coalition backing the compromise bipartisan immigration bill is holding together, increasing chances the measure will clear the Senate by the end of the week.
“I am very optimistic,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.
Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, said he expected a “sizable” majority in favor of the bill when the Senate votes on it later this week.
Feinstein would have created a new visa for illegal immigrants living in the United States before January 1, 2006. They would have been able to work in the country for six years and then apply for a green-card visa that gives them permanent residence and puts them on a path to citizenship.
Some lawmakers who supported the Feinstein approach ended up voting against it in order to preserve the underlying bipartisan compromise.
The compromise bill creates a three-tiered approach to addressing illegal immigrants. Those who have been in the United States for more than five years are given a path to citizenship, those in the United States between two and five years would have to step outside the country to get a temporary work permit, and those who have been in the country less than two years would have to leave.