CHN: Immigration Reform Still Unresolved In The Senate

Senate leaders continued to negotiate how to proceed with immigration reform while over a million immigrants in 200 cities skipped work and rallied for A Day Without Immigrants on May 1. Hundreds of thousands also rallied earlier on April 10 in Washington, D.C. and other cities to support proposals to put undocumented immigrants on the path to legal status.
Senate Leaders Bill Frist (R-TN) and Harry Reid (D-NV) and others support S. 2612, sponsored by Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Mel Martinez (R-FL). The Hagel-Martinez bill is similar to the one approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with support of Democrats and some Republicans, including committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA). S. 2612 would allow undocumented immigrants to place themselves on a years-long path to citizenship after paying a fine and back taxes, passing a criminal background check and meeting other requirements. Senate action came to a standstill in April when Senate leaders could not agree on how many amendments should be allowed to legislation on the floor. Proponents of providing undocumented immigrants with a path to legalization were concerned about amendments that would gut the bill, such as one offered by Jon Kyl (R-AZ). The Kyl amendment would bar aggravated felons from legalization, but would define that term to include any immigrant who twice overstayed a visa.

Reid and Frist were initially unable to agree on the number of amendments and on the composition of the conference committee that would negotiate should the Senate pass a bill. The House in December passed a bill (H.R. 4437) that focuses solely on enforcement and border security, raising fears of a difficult conference should the Senate pass a bill. There are reports that Senator Reid is showing more flexibility on these points. Negotiations may also be helped along by statements made by President Bush in April that appeared to support the type of earned citizenship provisions in the Hagel-Martinez bill.