[JURIST] US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) [official website] said Wednesday that negotiations in Congress to implement comprehensive immigration reform [JURIST news archive] will be streamlined to focus on border security and worksite enforcement. Both houses of Congress have passed immigration reform bills and the two versions must be reconciled and voted on before a final bill can be presented to President Bush for his signature. The Senate bill [S 2611 summary], passed in May [JURIST report], would set millions of illegal immigrants on a path to potential citizenship and would authorize a temporary worker program, while the more restrictive House version [HR 4437 summary], passed last year [JURIST report], makes unlawful presence in the US a felony subject to deportation and could punish humanitarian groups aiding illegals. The House of Representatives held several hearings on immigration reform [JURIST report] throughout the summer in an effort to address concerns with the legislation [JURIST report] passed by the US Senate.
Frist said Wednesday that "it would be next to impossible to pass a comprehensive bill that includes dealing with the diversity of 12 million people here in the next three weeks" and House leaders are due to meet Thursday to discuss a plan to pass measures for stricter border security and increased spending on border agents before the November 7 break for congressional elections. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) [official website] responded [press release] to Frist's comments by calling for a "solution to our broken immigration system" and criticizing Republicans' failure to "pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill to protect our borders." Critics warn that only comprehensive legislation can deal with the 12 million illegal immigrants [JURIST report], with nearly 850,000 new illegal immigrants coming to the US each year since 2000. Reuters has more.