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Senate agrees on immigration plan (Sorry, Emma)

John Dimsdale May 17, 2007

Senate agrees on immigration plan (Sorry, Emma)

John Dimsdale May 17, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: No more tired or poor. No more huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Definitely no wretched refuse. With apologies to Emma Lazarus . . . from now on you’ll need a tip-top resume and bankable skills to come to this country. Because Congress made a deal on immigration today.

It’s a bill that’s got a little something for everyone. Republicans get border security and a national employee verification system. Democrats get a path to citizenship for some of the immigrants who are in this country illegally.

The deal’s a long way from done, but you might even call it bipartisan. Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale starts us off today.

JOHN DIMSDALE: The hurdles for citizenship are higher in this proposal than in the bill that passed the Senate last year. That means the new version is attracting more support from southern Republican Senators — including Arizona’s Jon Kyl, who voted no last year.

At today’s announcement, Kyl said illegal immigrants with clean records will be eligible for a temporary but renewable four-year residency pass. After eight years residency, they can apply for a green card.

JON KYL: Like any other applicant for green card, you have to wait in line. You can’t cut in line. Secondly, you’d have to apply not here in the United States, but from your country to get that green card. You have to pass an English test. You have to pay your fines. There are other fees that would have to be paid.

Five years later, a green card holder can apply for citizenship. Eligibility would be enhanced by a complicated point system that favors immigrants with job skills, knowledge of English, plus community and family ties to the U.S.

President George Bush said he could sign the Senate proposal.

GEORGE W. BUSH: This is a bill where people who live here in our country will be treated without amnesty, but without animosity.

To achieve this compromise, a group of 15 to 20 senators from both parties spent weeks plowing through detailed plans for beefing up border security and a verification system for employers.

Members of the negotiating team credit Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy with a dogged pursuit of solutions. Today, Kennedy said this is his best shot.

EDWARD KENNEDY: Politics is the art of the possible. And the agreement we just reached is the best possible chance we will have in years to secure our borders, bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America.

Advocates on both sides of the immigration issue said late today they’re waiting to see more details of the compromise. The Senate expects to vote on the bill by the end of next week. And leaders in the House hope to approve similar legislation next month.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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