U.S. immigration legislation

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  • U.S. immigration legislation

During President George W. Bush’s second term in office (beginning 2005), immigration resurfaced as a highly debated issue. The focus was largely on enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well establishing a policy for dealing with over ten-million illegal immigrants already living in the U.S. at the time (many in southwestern states such as Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California). Both the Republican-led House and Senate passed significant immigration legislation during the 109th Congress, but the two chambers could not settle their differences and no bill was ever sent to Bush. In the 110th Congress, the debate resumed. Many in Congress favored comprehensive proposals which would provide illegal immigrants with a path to legal status, while also tightening security at U.S. borders (particularly with Mexico). Some opposed any plan intended to allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country and pushed instead for strict punishment of both the immigrants and employers who hire them. President Bush favored a comprehensive approach, so long as it included a “guest-worker” program, whereby immigrants could remain in the United States to work, but would not necessarily be granted (or given access to) citizenship.[1]

In early summer of 2007, negotiations over the direction of immigration reform broke down in the Senate as the comprehensive immigration bill only received 46 of the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster. It appeared that no comprehensive immigration bill would be able to pass in the 110th Congress. Some opponents of the bill argued for the enforcement of current immigration laws rather than writing new ones that would support amnesty for illegals.[2]

During Congress's August recess, the Bush administration, left without any new immigration reform, released a new plan it said would improve immigration policies by using existing laws. Many saw the plan, which involved a crackdown on employers of illegal immigrants, as a way to restart the debate on immigration reform.[3]

The following pages provide in-depth analysis of congressional action on immigration: