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US Senate postpones debate on immigration reform

Written by: Staff

Washington, Mar 30 (UNI) A guest worker programme in the 300-page immigration bill, dubbed by some lawmakers as ''amnesty'' for illegals, has led to a division among the Senate Republicans, resulting in the postponement of the debate on the issue to sometime later this week.

The Senate had to take up the debate on the bill yesterday but it decided to wait for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, to introduce a border security bill which will be the basis for debate on immigration reform.

In an unusual move, Mr Frist is stated to be circumventing legislation approved and sent to the full Senate by the Judiciary Committee on Monday, according to Congressional sources.

The committee bill would step up border enforcement, establish a temporary guest worker programme and offer a way to legal residency and eventual citizenship for undocumented workers -- provisions backed by President George W Bush.

But the Republicans are divided over the guest worker proposal, which is not included in Mr Frist's legislation, is dividing Republicans.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says the programme must be included in any immigration reform bill to deal with the reality of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

The guest worker programme is a troublesome issue for Republicans. The conservatives in the party opposes the plan, but many businesses rely on undocumented (illegal) workers. Besides this in an election year, Republicans do not want to alienate a growing and increasingly influential Hispanic electorate. Democrats, for their part, generally support a guest worker programme.

Once the Senate approves an immigration reform measure, it will have to be reconciled with a House-passed bill, which does not contain any guest worker proposal.


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