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Senate Includes Foreign Adoptees in US Immigration Reform Bill

American Theresa Alden talks with her adopted foreign-born sons, Gavin (C), 6, and Graem, 4, at their home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (file photo).
The U.S. Senate has voted in favor of automatic citizenship for foreign-born children adopted by American families. The chamber added the measure to landmark legislation to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, a top priority of President Barack Obama’s agenda.

Senators have proposed scores of amendments to the immigration bill, and Tuesday the Senate voted on four of them. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar co-sponsored the foreign adoption proposal, saying needy children deserve a chance at the American dream.

“I have seen the incredible joy an adopted child from another country can bring to a new mom or dad.”

Another Democrat-sponsored amendment also was approved. But two Republican amendments were defeated. One sought to boost the government’s ability to track foreign visitors who overstay their visas. The other, sponsored by Republican John Thune, would have mandated a vast expansion of border fencing between the United States and Mexico before undocumented immigrants could gain legal status.

“Every time Congress has tried to fix our broken immigration system, promises of a more secure border are never upheld,” said Thune.

Many Republican lawmakers want guarantees that future waves of illegal immigrants will not be able to penetrate U.S. borders before agreeing to legalize 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. Many Democrats, including Senator Patrick Leahy, object.

“I do not want people to move out of the shadows only to be stuck in some underclass. We should not make people’s fates and future status dependent on border enforcement conditions over which they have no control.”

The disagreement reflects sharp partisan differences that complicate final passage of the bill in the Senate and the Congress as a whole. Without strong law enforcement provisions, Republican backing will disappear. But Democrats worry that onerous border security requirements will serve as an excuse to delay or deny legalized status for the undocumented. A bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators is struggling to preserve a fragile coalition of Democratic and Republican lawmakers backing immigration reform, without which the effort will fail.