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US Senate to Reconsider Immigration Reform Next Week

The U.S. Senate next week is expected to make another effort to pass a sweeping immigration reform bill. The measure was blocked by opposition Republicans earlier this month, and its fate remains unclear, as VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Under pressure from President Bush, for whom immigration reform is a top legislative priority, Senate leaders agreed to reconsider the comprehensive bill aimed at overhauling the nation's immigration system.

The measure would tighten border security, create a temporary guest worker program and offer the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States a possible path to citizenship.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, is a supporter of the bill.

"To become a citizen, immigrants in the country illegally will have to demonstrate a real dedication to our country," she said. "They will have to work to hold their visas, they will have to pay a fine, they will have to learn our language, and they do have to do this over a substantial period of time. This won't happen overnight."

Supporters hope more Republicans will back the bill this time. Earlier this month, minority Republicans used procedural tactics to block the bill from coming to a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, says a newly proposed amendment to provide $4 billion for border security, funded by fees and fines paid by undocumented workers, should help ease Republican concerns that the legislation does not go far enough to securing U.S. borders:

"This bill is great with border with security," he said. "Why? Because it has $4.4 billion of mandated spending for border security. It is such a better bill, and for that reason, it should pass."

But many Republicans are skeptical of the proposal, and many others remain concerned that the legislation rewards immigrants who entered the United States illegally with the promise of citizenship.

"We are going to send a message around the world that all you have to do is get into our country illegally and you will be made a citizen," said Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican.

Some Republican opponents are vowing to try to block the bill a second time.

"Many of us are going to use every procedural tool we can to try to stop this bill," said Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican.

Although Senate Democratic leader Reid remains hopeful about the bill's passage, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is more cautious. McConnell says he is not even sure how he will vote on the legislation until action on all amendments is completed.

The House of Representatives has yet to draft its own immigration reform bill.