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Leahy Faces Challenge With Immigration Bill

Senator Patrick Leahy faces one of his biggest legislative challenges as the U.S. Senate begins its debate over an immigration reform bill.

The Senate debate is expected to last several weeks and dozens of amendments will be considered during this time period.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, Senator Patrick Leahy will play a key role in determining the outcome of this debate. The legislation under consideration was drafted by his committee and was passed with bi-partisan support.

The plan provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million people who are in this country illegally and the legislation also calls for tougher measures along the border with Mexico.

Leahy says the bill isn’t perfect but represents a reasonable compromise on many key issues.

"Now it’s up to the rest of the Senate to do it. I think it can.”

“We approved in that committee which goes across the political spectrum that we could do it. Now it’s up to the rest of the Senate to do it. I think it can,” said Leahy. “We’ve given the bill momentum. There are some that would like to slow it up but I think they’re a minority.”

A group of Republican senators want to add an amendment to the bill that would postpone the citizenship provisions until it’s demonstrated that the border is totally secure. Leahy thinks the proposed amendment goes too far.

“Are you going to make the border completely secured ? No and if you say we have to go x number of years and not a single person can get through the border well that’s never going to happen,” said Leahy. “Wouldn’t happen on any border anywhere in the world.”

Senator Bernie Sanders says the legislation contains some important elements. But he’s concerned that the bill expands a guest worker program that allows U.S. companies to bring foreign workers into this country for high tech jobs and positions in the tourist industry.

“I worry very much that many of these very large corporations are putting a lot of energy into this bill in trying to keep wages down and instead of raising wages to attract American workers,” said Sanders. “I think in many cases they like to bring cheaper labor in from abroad both higher tech and low tech.” 

Sanders says he’s hoping to amend this part of the bill.

“So my job right now is to work actually in a bi-partisan way, some Republicans share these concerns, to see if we can make some improvements in the bill.”

Sanders says he’ll make a final decision about supporting the legislation once all the amendments have been considered.

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