Immigration soon may move to the center of national debate again as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) prepare to introduce a bill similar to last year’s, possibly in early March.

At a Feb. 28 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Bush administration officials called for a comprehensive approach. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said  that would include a temporary-worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, after they pay “appropriate penalties.”

Last year, the Senate passed a comprehensive bill, but the House version focused on enforcement. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) warned, “Without the administration’s earnest engagement on this issue, our efforts are likely to suffer the same fate they did last year.”