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Senate Judiciary Committee to consider immigration bill

Written by: Staff
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Washington, March 27 (UNI) The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up for consideration the controversial and mammoth immigration bill that will decide the fate of more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

The historic legislation in stages of being crafted would also seek to allow the unlawful workers (sometimes called guest workers) to earn their way to legal status in the United States, according to the Republican chairman of the committee Arlen R Specter (from Pennsylvania).

The committee, which has been struggling for weeks on the legislation, faces a deadline tonight to come up with a compromise before Senate majority leader Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, offers his own stringent measure on the floor.

Mr Frist's bill, would make criminals out of illegal immigrants and offers no way to permanent, legal presence in the United States for people who entered the country illegally by crossing the border or other such means.

But Mr Specter, says his committee, while still divided over language involving guest workers and other provisions, was determined to thwart Mr Frist's measure by producing its own bill.

''We may have to work very, very late into the night, but we will produce a bill,'' Mr Specter said yesterday on ABC's ''This Week''.

Congress is considering a bill that would make it a felony to be illegally in the United States, impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants and erect fences along one-third of the US-Mexican border. The proposals have angered many Hispanics, who are mostly undocumented (illegal) workers.

The issue has become the core of heated discussions in congressional campaigns, dividing Republicans, and pitting potential presidential candidates against one another and against their President.

Anticipating turbulent debate over the immigration legislation, President George W Bush has appealed to the US Congress and his partymen to grapple with the issue in a ''civil way'' to avoid pitting groups against one another.

Mr Bush, who favours the guest-worker programme to allow foreigners (particularly from Latin American countries) to do jobs that Americans won't do, will be in Mexico on Wednesday to meet with President Vicente Fox, who is frustrated with the lack of progress in Congress on an immigration overhaul.

Pro-Immigration groups have been holding massive demonstrations in cities around the country, demanding the right to work in the country. Some 500,000 rallied Saturday in Los Angeles against the House legislation, which would erect a 700-mile wall and fencing along the Mexican border.

Thousands of people across the country protested Friday against the legislation cracking down on illegal immigrants, with demonstrators in such cities as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Atlanta staging school walkouts, marches and work stoppages.

In Phoenix, police said 10,000 demonstrators marched to the office of Republican Sen Jon Kyl, co-sponsor of a bill that would give illegal immigrants up to five years to leave the country. Many of the protesters carried placards saying ''We are not terrorists.

We are honest workers'' to drive home the point that the so-called ''undocumented workers'' do all the unskilled low-paid jobs that no American is willing to do.

Mr Specter rejected allegations that his bill allowed amnesty, noting that his legislation would impose fines and extensive background checks on illegal immigrants -- who still would have to wait in line behind lawful applicants before attaining full citizenship, according to the Boston Globe.

''We have approximately 11 million undocumented aliens here, and we've got to find some way to deal with them. If they're prepared to work to become American citizens in the long line . . . of immigrants who have helped make this country, we can have both a nation of laws and a welcoming nation of workers who do some very, very important jobs for our economy,'' he said.

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