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Legalization provision survives Senate vote

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The U.S. Senate voted late last week to keep a legalization provision in the weighty bipartisan bill that is provoking praise and criticism from all sides in the debate over comprehensive immigration reform
The vote to retain the legalization aspect of the bill was 66 to 29.
The Senate is in its Memorial Day recess this week and will resume business on Monday, June 4.
Thursday’s vote saw nine Democrats join 20 Republicans in voting in support of an amendment – presented by GOP senator David Vitter of Louisiana – that would have struck down the legalization provision in S.1384, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.
Vitter argued that the path to legalization for an estimated 12 million undocumented and illegal immigrants was nothing short of amnesty and would encourage more people to enter the U.S. illegally.
However, significant Republican support, including votes to save the amendment cast by senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl, ensured the legalization provision’s survival.
The retention of the provision was strongly support by Senator Edward Kennedy.
“Legalization is important for our national security. We have to know who is in the United States. Legalization is important in terms of our economic prosperity. And legalization is important for the families. Do we think we’re going to deport children – 3.5 million American children who have parents that are undocumented?” Kennedy said.
President Bush also lent his voice to the effort to offer the undocumented and illegal a way forward.
“You can’t kick them out,” he said.
Prior to the Senate vote, the chairman of the Irish lobby for Immigration Reform, Niall O’Dowd, expressed support for the legalization provision when he testified before a hearing of the House subcommittee on immigration.
“We strongly approve of the provisions that legalize the undocumented in the Senate bill which we believe is a reasoned and humane approach to bringing these people into the American mainstream,” O’Dowd said.
The Senate is scheduled to return to the immigration debate immediately upon its return from recess. Debate on S.1384, a lengthy and complex proposal cobbled together by members from both parties, will continue through the month of June. The House of Representatives is expected to begin debate on its own immigration reform bill in July.
Meanwhile, ILIR is using this week’s recess to make “targeted office visits” in half a dozen states to urge senators to keep moving forward with the reform process. The group is currently running a phone-in campaign aimed at Senate members and said it had recently generated 70,000 phone calls in a single week.

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