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Republican Sen. John McCain says his guest-worker program allowing illegal aliens to stay in the U.S. doesn’t have enough Senate votes to stave off opposition from conservatives, who call it an amnesty plan.
A majority of senators have indicated they would support the measure, but it lacks the 60 votes necessary to overcome parliamentary tactics by opponents. The House passed a controversial bill in December that has sparked massive protests by advocates of illegal immigrants, making it a felony to be in the country illegally.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is under pressure to pass an immigration-border security bill by Friday when Congress recesses for two weeks.
McCain has teamed with Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy to propose a plan to provide green cards to illegal immigrants who were in the U.S. before Jan. 7, 2004, and who have jobs, to work legally for another six years and eventually become citizens.
The Arizona senator insists the program isn’t amnesty because any illegal who wants a green card would have to clear a background check, pay fines totaling $2,000 and pay any back taxes.
Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Sen. Chuck Hagel, R- Neb., have revived a compromise plan that would allow illegals who already have been in the country more than five years to be put on a track toward citizenship and would treat recent arrivals differently.
A proponent, Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., pointed out 40 percent of illegal immigrants have been in the country less than five years.
Today, more than 30 Republican senators to hammer out a plan but reached no consensus, according to the Associated Press.
Opponents, such as Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., argue the compromise bill merely gives amnesty to fewer illegal immigrants and is amnesty just the same. They propose instead that all immigrants must leave the country before they can apply for permanent residence or guest-worker status.
Frist has his own plan, which strengthens border enforcement and cracks down on employers who hire illegal workers.
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