A bill that would give millions of illegal aliens in the United States the opportunity to earn citizenship is closer to becoming law today as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee signaled likely passage of a proposal by Sens. Edward Kenney, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz.
Though a committee vote will not be held until after a week-long congressional recess, likely March 27, committee members appeared ready to back the Kennedy-McCain bill.
“The votes are there,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Congress is working to pass a reform bill that includes enforcement, a policy on dealing with illegals already in the country and a guest-worker program pushed by President Bush.
Under the legislation, illegal aliens in the United States would obtain six-year nonimmigrant visas under which they could work in the country and travel outside the country. The aliens would have to pay a $1,000 fine and undergo background checks.
After six years, the aliens would be able to meet certain requirements and then apply for a green card, or permanent residency.
Besides voting on the bill after the recess, committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the panel also would vote on a bill by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., that would give illegal aliens up to five years to leave the U.S. After returning home, they could then apply to return, either as temporary workers or for permanent residency.
“Our intention is not to strand anyone outside the country,” Kyl said, according to an AP report. But he asserted the McCain-Kennedy plan would give an illegal alien allowed to stay and work in the country a “huge advantage” over a person having to wait for years in his or her own country for a green card.
The McCain-Kennedy bill would start off with offering 400,000 of the new visas.
Two years ago, Bush proposed a guest-worker program that has been criticized by immigration-reform advocates as nothing more than an amnesty program for foreigners who entered the United States illegally.
Kennedy disputed the amnesty charge: “There is no moving to the front of the line, there is no free ticket. This is not amnesty.”
Majority Leader Bill Frist has threatened to bring his own immigration bill to the floor of the Senate March 27 if the committee has not approved one.
Related special offers: