Bush may have to bridge Senate, House divide over immigration reform bill

[JURIST] Following US Senate passage of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 [S 2611 summary; JURIST news archive] on Thursday, observers suggested Friday that President Bush is likely to play an important role in reconciling the Senate plan with the more conservative Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act [PDF text; summary] passed by the House last year. Bush has repeatedly called for immigration reform [JURIST report], and supports a guest worker program and a "path to citizenship" for the 12 million illegal immigrants currently working in the US, provisions contained in the Senate bill but not the House version.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY), a potential House negotiator on the legislation, expressed the view of many of his House colleagues on Friday by announcing that he will not support any bill that provides a "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants. The Senate version, while preventing convicted criminals from ever becoming US citizens, allows workers with five years of US residency to apply for citizenship after paying a $3,200 fine and back taxes and satisfying other requirements. The security-oriented House bill, narrowly approved last December [JURIST report], makes unlawful presence in the US a felony subject to deportation and could punish humanitarian groups aiding illegals. In his Saturday radio address [transcript] last week, Bush said he would sign a compromise bill that reflects a "rational middle ground between automatic citizenship for every illegal immigrant and a program of mass deportation." Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who supported the Senate bill [press release], called Friday for the House and Senate to reach a compromise before the November elections. AP has more.



 

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