This AP article does a thorough job of outlining the changes to the Kennedy/Bush Deal thus far. We’ll have more community education materials available by next week-
Senate Tightens Immigration Bill
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS 05.23.07, 8:44 PM ET
Republicans and Democrats placed strict new conditions on a broad immigration measure Wednesday, as the White House and the bipartisan group that crafted it fought to keep their compromise intact.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly to slash the number of foreign workers who could come to the U.S. on temporary visas. It also endorsed toughening the security measures that would have to be in place before millions of illegal immigrants could begin gaining permanent legal status or a new temporary worker program could be launched.
The measure faced new challenges as Democrats sought to loosen its limits on family-based immigration and Republicans proposed further security measures.
The guest worker program would be capped at 200,000 a year under the Democratic proposal approved Wednesday, which passed 74-24 over strong opposition by the Bush administration.
Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said the change, proposed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., would interfere with a “central component” of the White House-backed immigration measure. That plan provided for 400,000 worker visas annually, plus an option to increase that number to 600,000 if market conditions demand it.
“The Bingaman amendment would eliminate this critical flexibility and cut the size of the temporary worker program in half,” Gutierrez said in a statement.
Senators approved a proposal by Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire to toughen the bill’s so-called triggers, which condition the temporary worker program and the granting of legal status to illegal immigrants to strict border security and workplace enforcement measures.
They also adopted a proposal by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to crack down with mandatory prison sentences on illegal immigrants who re-enter the U.S.
The changes came as the administration urged the Senate to approve the immigration legislation despite fresh criticism from presidential hopefuls and lawmakers in both parties.
“The proposal offers a much-needed solution for our nation’s broken immigration system,” the White House budget office said in a statement. “This proposal would deliver an immigration system that is secure, productive, orderly and fair.”
But in a reminder of the widespread distaste for the measure within President Bush’s party, House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio was quoted describing the bill with a common four-letter expletive during a closed-door meeting Tuesday.
His office said the comment, first reported on National Journal’s “Hotline” blog, was “nothing but an off-the-cuff wisecrack made jokingly during a private gathering,” but noted that Boehner has “serious concerns” about the Senate measure.
The bill would grant an estimated 12 million unlawful immigrants quick legal status and toughen border security. It also would create a new workplace verification system to bar undocumented workers from getting jobs.
It would set up a point system for future immigration applicants that would place less emphasis on family connections and more on education and skills in demand by U.S. businesses.
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, a Democratic presidential hopeful, announced plans to challenge the point system, saying it devalued family.
The scheme “constitutes at minimum a radical experiment in social engineering and a departure from our tradition of having family and employers invite immigrants to come,” Obama said, adding that he would work to phase it out.
A 2008 rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said she would seek to exempt the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents from visa caps, to speed a multi-year backlog that keeps families apart.
Still another Democratic presidential contender, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, proposed raising to 90,000 from 40,000 the measure’s yearly limit on visas for the parents of U.S. citizens.
Republicans have proposed several modifications to further bolster border security and make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to get on a path to citizenship.
The Senate was considering a proposal by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that would allow visas to be revoked without court review.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was seeking to bar unlawful immigrants who have been ordered deported from gaining legal status. His proposal would also ensure that terrorists, gang members, sex offenders, gun smugglers or repeat drunken drivers are barred.
The conservatives, liberals and centrists who reached the deal are struggling to protect it by working to defeat proposed changes they consider unacceptable.
Senate leaders have postponed a final vote until June.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed