WASHINGTON – After weeks of debate,the Senate passed an immigration reform bill Thursday in a rare bipartisan effort that involved numerous compromises.
“In this very important bill,no one got exactly what they wanted,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid,D-Nev.,said. “I am so proud of the Senate. This is the way we should legislate.”
The bill includes a plan for a temporary or guest worker program for undocumented immigrants and tighter border security. It makes English the national language of the United States.
The legislation requires illegal immigrants in the country to pay a fine of more than $3,000 and to pay any back taxes before they can become legal residents.
Sen. Dick Durbin,D-Ill.,praised a provision establishing a program that allows children of illegal immigrants to have a path toward citizenship. “This is the American dream,” Durbin said.
The bill also includes an amendment by Sen. Russ Feingold,D-Wisc.,that would allow victims of trafficking to go to court to object to being deported.
The bill passed 62-36,with more broad,moderate language than the more conservative bill that House of Representatives passed. The Senate bill drew the votes of 23 Republican Senators,while 32 voted against it.
The battle for immigration reform has been tumultuous. Both parties attempted to distance themselves from what some describe as amnesty for undocumented workers.
The bill will now move to conference committee with the House,where it will face another intense debate over the Senate compromises.
Leading Senate supporters held a news conference immediately after the bill's passage and reached out to the House.
Several senators also called on President Bush to use his leverage to help the conference committee reach a compromise.
“Now it's time for very active participation by the president,” Sen. Arlen Specter,R-Pa.,said.
Many saw this is as a victory for moderates and bipartisan legislation. Congress is facing an approval rating of 23 percent,according to a recent Gallup poll.
“Those of us who can compromise without capitulating will be rewarded,” Sen. Lindsey Graham R-S.C.,said. “This Congress is on its way to self healing.”