Posted May 26, 2006 – After working late into the night Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed an Immigration Reform plan that would clear the way to citizenship for roughly 11 million immigrants.
In a 62-36 vote – passed largely because of a Democratic coalition that supported the measure – the Senate’s immigration reform plan outlines tough guidelines for what millions of immigrants living in the America without proper papers must do to become U.S. citizens. The bill also:
Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Democratic leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, both sided with supporters, a reflection of the bipartisan backing for a bill that was months in the drafting and survived several near-death experiences.
“We took the amnesty out while we put the security in,” Frist said.
The bill "strengthens our security and reflects our humanity," said Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Sen. John McCain's partner in Senate compromise. "It is intended to keep out those who would harm us and welcome those who contribute to our country."
The bill also enjoys “reserved” support of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States but still has strong Republic opposition, which could upend the measure.
"This is amnesty," said David Vitter (R-La.), who tried last week to strip the bill of provisions relating to citizenship.
But the plan is not a done deal. Efforts to square up the differences between Senate and House versions of the bill could still derail the reforms.
Despite the victory, the Senate’s measure remains in stark contrast to the reform pan the House passed late last year. But House Republicans seem hell-bent on holding on to their provisions. Among those are sections that would:
The Senate and House must reconcile their differences before the reform package can be signed into law. However, observers say, the differences run deep and many not be resolved before the end of the fall session, thus effectively killing the legislation.
"We have two very separate and distinct directions that we're going [in] when it comes to controlling our borders, enforcing our laws,” House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a news conference Thursday. “And I don't underestimate the difficulty in the House and Senate trying to come together in an agreement,"