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Immigration Debate Resumes Today

June 26, 2007

After tabling immigration reform for nearly three weeks, the U.S. Senate is expected Tuesday to again vote on a cloture proceeding that would restrict debate on legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration system.

A vote to move the bill forward would narrow down to 22 the number of amendments under consideration, down from some 300 amendments that nearly sank the bipartisan effort to provide undocumented immigrants with a path to legalization, while tightening border security and creating a guest worker program for foreign laborers.

Earlier this month, a vote on cloture came 15 votes shy of the required 60 votes after two weeks of often-heated debate that tore across party lines, ending the talks until President Bush pressured both sides to reconsider the stalemate.

The legislation known as the Comprehensive Reform Act of 2007 would also restructure legal immigration to give more weight to job skills and education over family ties to those in the U.S.

As word spread Monday that the Senate was again preparing to debate immigration reform, advocates on both sides flooded their constituents with "calls to action," laying down talking points for another round of phone calls and e-mails to their legislators. Such pressure played a role in stalling the bill earlier this month.

Three Republican senators – John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Jim W. DeMint (R-S.C.) – held a press conference Monday condemning the legislation as "an actual danger to our nation."

They are among several conservatives seeking to tighten workplace and border enforcement measures in the legislation, while Democrats seek to tilt the changes to legal immigration back to families. Democrats are also hoping to restrict the guest worker program that would create some 200,000 visas for foreign laborers.

High-tech companies, meanwhile, have been lobbying to make it easier to hire immigrants with specialized skills for specific jobs.