The Immigration Reform Proposal is Brokered by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. and the Bush Administration.
A Vote Has Been Put off on the Immigration Overhaul until next Month.
Amid a growing challenge to the bill, which would offer a path to citizenship for up to 12 million illegal immigrants, the Senate did vote by 69 to 23 votes to move to debate on the massive reform package.
But Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said the measure was too complicated to be put to a vote by the end of this week, as he had hoped, and would instead be taken up in early June after a short congressional recess.
The bill, agreed last week after marathon talks between a bipartisan group of senators and the White House, would also establish a merit-based points system for future immigrants and institute a low-wage temporary worker program. But in a sign of its intense political sensitivity, several senators running for president including Democrats Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd and Joseph Biden, and Republican John McCain, were not in the Senate for the vote. The bill aims to defuse a fiercely polarizing issue in American life and to fast-track reform before partisan rancor consumes politics ahead of congressional and presidential elections in 2008.
Some Democrats have complained the legislation would hamper attempts by immigrants to bring extended families to the United States and fear the short-term worker program would create a new underclass.
Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, one of the key figures in last week’s talks, said the legislation would be a landmark in US history.
“Our immigration system is adrift and urgently needs an overhaul from top to bottom,” Kennedy said. “If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”
If approved, the bill would fund building 200 miles (321 kilometers) of barriers and 370 miles (595 kilometers) of fencing, and the construction of 70 ground-based radar and camera towers on the Mexican border.
People who are illegal in the country before January 1, 2007, would have to pay a $5,000 fine to get a nonimmigrant “Z” visa which will allow them eventually to become eligible for a green card, or permanent residency.
New rules would give more credit for earning a green card to applicants with English proficiency, advanced education, science, technology and mathematics skills, and other special expertise. In the past priority has gone to people with family members already in the United States legally.