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Some Immigration Amendments to be Voted on This Week Labeled as "Deal Breakers"

June 27, 2007

Today, the U.S. Senate is set to begin debating immigration reform again after voting Tuesday to pick up a revised version of the legislation that was set aside earlier this month. 

The 64 to 35 vote on cloture whittled down the number of amendments facing the bill to 27, leading White House officials and Senate architects of the legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration system to predict the bill will be passed by week's end. 

Several senators said their willingness to reopen discussion didn't guarantee they'd vote to pass the bill that would offer legalization to 12 million undocumented immigrants. 

As a sign of the political theater likely to again surround the debate, Republican conservatives who have vowed to defeat the bill forced back discussion by using Senate rules to insist that the entire package of proposed amendments be read aloud.  A clerk began doing so before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agreed to postpone discussion for a day. 

After the vote, the haggling over proposed changes began anew, with some amendments to be voted on this week labeled as "deal breakers" by members of the bipartisan coalition of Senate leaders that crafted the bill. 

Among them is an amendment that would require illegal immigrants to leave the country before beginning the process to qualify for a "Z-visa" that would offer a path toward citizenship. 

Democrats are seeking to change a proposed merit-based system for legal immigration that would weigh job skills and education over family ties to those in the U.S. legally.  Members of both parties have also sought changes to a proposed temporary worker program for some 200,000 foreign laborers per year. 

While those amendments may present political obstacles, enforcement measures in the legislation have been strengthened by a $4.4 billion commitment to pay for border security and to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. 

President Bush, hoping to revive what would be an historic domestic reform that could define his legacy, pushed for that monetary commitment after the Senate debate broke down nearly three weeks ago. 

While advocates on both sides of the issue Tuesday bombarded the White House and Congress with phone calls and e-mails, Bush appeared tripped up by the rhetoric, falling prey to conservative critics who have labeled the bill as a form of amnesty.  White House officials have denied that characterization.