The Senate version of immigration reform legislation passed late this week. The bill, as passed, will give most illegal immigrants a chance to become American citizens, according to the New York Times. Opposition remains among House conservatives and Republican leadership, admitting that it will be difficult to get a final bill to the president. Bush, nevertheless, encouraged the Senate and the House to work together to pass a bill that he could sign into law.
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The passage of the bill in Senate was a bipartisan effort, as 23 Republicans, one Independent and 38 Democrats joined to win its approval. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. were the key architects of the bill.
Positive responses came from Sen. Bill Frist, telling the New York Times, the vote was “a success for the American people” and for immigrants “who hope to participate someday in the American dream.”
The Senate bill, as passed, contains the most extensive changes to immigration law in the past two decades, according to the New York Times. It creates a guest worker program and contains provisions to tighten up the Mexican-American border. The House already passed their version of an immigration bill. Bush said the House bill “began a national dialogue” into the immigration issue.
The House bill did not include provisions for legalization or the creation of a guest worker program that would allow some 200,000 foreign workers into this country each year. The House Majority leader, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, told the New York Times, “This is a very difficult issue. I don’t underestimate the difficulty of the House and Senate trying to come together in an agreement.”
The New York Times reports a possible solution to the conflicting views may be for the Senate bill to lose its provisions for citizenship but keep the guest worker program, as it was a central point of the president’s original proposal. A compromise is still possible as Arlen Specter, R-Pa., spoke before the Senate ahead of Thursday’s vote, “Does anyone have a better approach? Not yet. But we’re still open for business,” according to the Associated Press.
McCain also said, “If there are some unneeded and unwanted complexities in this legislation, they could probably be smoothed out.” He also welcomed new suggestions coming from the House, according to the Associated Press.
Some see the posturing of the president and the Congress on the immigration issue also as an indication of the degree of conservatism that the Republicans will carry into the midterm elections and into the national elections, according to the New York Times. Matthew Dowd, Bush’s chief strategist in 2004, said, “The party can’t be a dominant party without reaching out to minority communities, especially Latinos.”