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Opponents vow to try to block immigration bill

Reuters | June 21, 2007
Donna Smith

A group of Republican senators opposed to a sweeping immigration overhaul that would legalize millions of unlawful immigrants said on Thursday they were determined to torpedo the bill when the Senate resumes debate next week.

"The process has been rigged from the beginning, which we think gives us justification to use every measure possible to slow this thing down and stop it," said Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, at a news conference.

DeMint and other Republican opponents argue the bill amounts to amnesty for millions of law-breakers with no guarantee that tough border security and workplace enforcement measures would go into effect. They argue the legalization program will only encourage more illegal immigration.

The immigration overhaul, put together during months of negotiations among a small group Republicans, Democrats and the White House, would be a major legislative victory for President George W. Bush in his second term. Democrats have pressed him to bring more of his Republican allies in Congress on board after the bill stalled in the face of stiff opposition.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, decried Republican efforts to slow the legislation and said he was hopeful it would pass this time around.

A determined minority can often derail legislation in the closely divided 100-member Senate where it takes 60 votes to advance any controversial bill. But it was unclear if opponents of the immigration bill would be able to maneuver around a rarely used tactic, called a clay pigeon, Reid plans to use to push the bill to passage.

The parliamentary ploy effectively allows Senate leaders to pick amendments for consideration and shut out the opposition.

Democrats are also divided over the immigration bill. Labor unions oppose the temporary worker program saying it would create an underclass of cheap laborers. Bush, backed by his Republican party's pro-business wing, favors the temporary worker program to fill jobs they say Americans cannot or will not perform.

A survey of illegal immigrants from Latin American countries released on Thursday showed the vast majority of them would seek legal residency if the legislation passes.

The poll of 1,600 illegal immigrants conducted by New America Media, an association of ethnic news media, found about 83 percent would apply for the new "Z" visa that would allow them to work legally in the United States and eventually apply for permanent resident status.

But about 27 percent of those said that they would probably not apply if they were required to return to their home country to pick up the visa, the survey said.

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