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Leahy Optimistic On Passage Of Immigration Bill

Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s optimistic that the Senate will give its strong approval to an immigration reform bill by the end of this week.

As the chairman of the Judiciary committee, Senator Leahy has played a key role in the Senate’s consideration of this legislation.

The bill is designed to provide a path to citizenship for the nearly 12 million people who are in this country without proper documentation and it adds security along the Mexican border.

Leahy says he’s been able to build a bi-partisan coalition to support the bill because many senators were willing to compromise on a number of key issues.

“People realize nobody’s going to get exactly the immigration bill that each individual senator wanted because you’re not going to have a 100 of those you’re only going to have one,” said Leahy. 

“But we’re going to have an immigration law that’s a lot better than what we have now, shows some reality to the 12 million undocumented people in the country.”

The bill also includes a new Leahy amendment that restricts the siting of federal security check points far from the Canadian border. Currently, these check points can be located 100 miles from the border. Several years ago, a temporary check point was established just south of White River Junction along I-91.

Leahy’s amendment limits these checkpoints to within 25 miles of the border.

“Having checkpoints a 100 miles from the border, a 100 miles from the border, you know that’s way down in the southern part of our state that’s excessive and there’s no need for it,” said Leahy.

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders successfully added an amendment to the immigration bill that’s aimed at lowering the unemployment rate for young people in Vermont and across the country.

Sanders says the plan is needed to offset a provision in the bill that allows businesses to fill vacancies by expanding a foreign guest worker program.

Sanders says his plan will allocate $1.5 billion, over a two year period, to help create jobs for people under the age of 24.

“But to tell me that kids in the United States of America can’t be waiters and waitresses, ski instructors, and front desk people and parking lot attendants don’t tell me that of course they can,” said Sanders. “And you don’t need 100s of thousands of people from all over the world coming competing with younger Americans for those jobs.”

Sanders says as many as 2,000 young people in Vermont could be employed under his plan.

Sanders says he opposes some parts of the overall bill but he says the inclusion of his amendment makes it more likely that he’ll vote for final passage later this week.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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