Susan Jones | Senior Editor | Friday, May 26, 2006
The Senate bill establishes a path to citizenship (amnesty, critics insist) for millions of people who came to this country illegally, and that provision is anathema to some conservatives.
Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who voted for the bill, said he's "proud" that the Senate has acted.
"We've taken a bill, and we've made it better [through amendments]," Majority Leader Frist said in a statement. "We've taken a bill that the American people would have concluded was amnesty -- and by my lights, we took the amnesty out while we put the security in."
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a leading opponent of the Senate immigration bill, said it certainly does include amnesty.
"Unfortunately, the United States Senate today let the American people down by passing a deeply flawed bill that gives the illegal alien population every benefit our nation can bestow on its citizens, including participation in the Social Security System based on their illegal work histories."
According to Sessions, the bill has numerous fatal flaws aside from amnesty, including flawed border security and ineffective workplace enforcement.
Furthermore, Sessions said, the bill increases future immigration levels to at least three times the current level; it does nothing to ensure that the nation's future immigration policy reflects U.S. needs; and then there's the price tag.
According to Sessions, various analyses indicate the bill "might have costs as great as half a trillion dollars in any future 10-year period." Sen. Sessions called the bill "a huge, monumental budget buster."
Mexican President Vincente Fox, called the bill "a moment that millions of families have been hoping for."
The Democratic National Committee hailed the bill's passage, congratulating Senate Democrats for their "continued leadership" on immigration reform.
"Democrats have consistently fought for immigration reform that strengthens our borders, protects U.S. workers and their wages, reunites families and allows hard-working immigrants who pay taxes and obey the law the opportunity to earn the right to apply for the responsibilities of citizenship," DNC Chairman Howard Dean said in a statement.
"While the Senate bill is better than the Republican bill passed by the House with the President's backing, the next important step of reconciling these measures could erase any progress already made," Dean warned.
He urged President Bush and Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist to reject the "anti-immigrant and un-American elements of the House bill."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also endorsed the bill, saying it addresses both the security and economic needs of the country.
However, the Chamber -- while hailing the bill as a "major step" toward fixing the nation's immigration system -- said there are some significant issues that need to be resolved, including the new employment verification system and the prevailing wage requirements.