[JURIST] The bicameral committee of US lawmakers responsible for hammering out a comprehensive immigration reform package [JURIST news archive] may recommend to the new Congress beginning in January that illegal immigrants not be required to leave the country before petitioning for legal status, according to the New York Times Tuesday. The committee, led by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), expects to have a reconciled bill ready for the Senate to consider in March or April, followed by a House vote in the months following. The committee must reach compromise between a Senate bill [S 2611 summary] passed in May [JURIST report] that would set millions of illegal immigrants on a path to potential citizenship and would authorize a temporary worker program, with the more restrictive House version [HR 4437 summary] passed late last year [JURIST report] which makes unlawful presence in the US a felony subject to deportation and could punish humanitarian groups aiding illegals.
The committee may also decide not to provide sufficient funding for the Secure Fence Act of 2006 [PDF text; HR 6061 summary], which provides for 700 miles of border fencing to be constructed between the US and Mexico. The border fence bill, signed into law [JURIST report] by President Bush in October, was passed by the House and Senate [JURIST reports] after Republican leadership decided to leave comprehensive immigration reform proposals for the next session of congress. The New York Times has more.