Key Senate Bill provisions

  • Border enforcement, new barriers, 2,000 more Border Patrol personnel.
  • Guest worker plan, 325,000 annual cap.
  • Mandatory verification system for hiring workers.
  • ‘Path to citizenship’ for undocumented. Three categories, depending on time in U.S. Those here more than five years must work three of the last five years, pay fine, back taxes, know English.
  • SOURCE: Senate Judiciary committee


    “There are big differences between the House and the Senate bill,” says Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who will be a key conferee. “And now the time has come for very active participation by the President.”

    The Senate measure, approved May 25 on a 62-36 vote, seeks to combine tougher border enforcement with a “guest worker” plan and a way for illegal immigrants in to gain U.S. citizenship. The requirements vary according to how long a person has been in the U.S. The version the House passed Dec. 16 focuses on tightening the border and lacks guest worker and citizenship provisions.

    House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. said May 26 that the Senate bill is “moons apart or oceans apart” from the House’s.

    “It seems that the two [sides] are diametrically opposed on some of the very key issues,” says Jenna Hamilton, National Association of Home Builders’ assistant staff vice president for legislative affairs. NAHB, the Associated General Contractors and other groups favor the Senate approach. Associated Builders and Contractors opposes a Senate provision that it says would widen Davis-Bacon Act coverage beyond federal projects to temporary workers on private projects. But ABC supports the Senate bill’s “principles and ideas,” says Danielle Ringwood, senior director for legislative affairs.

    Opinions are split about the outlook for an agreement. “Right now, I feel as if the chances are not very great,” says NAHB’s Hamilton. Prospects for a deal are “very slim at this point,” adds Bevin Power, legislative representative with the laborers’ union. “We need a lot more flexibility on the House side, and we’re just not seeing that now.”

    Ringwood says she is optimistic that a final bill will be passed this Congress. “I think the construction industry needs a comprehensive approach to immigration and our industry and our country are both demanding it,” she says.

    Specter notes that the Senate was able to strike deals with the House on the Patriot Act and other bills. On immigration, “I think we’ll be able to work it out,” he says. But Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Judiciary’s top Democrat, says, “It is still a 50:50 proposition.”

    fter Senate approval of a bill that would make major changes in immigration policy, the measure’s fate hinges on a conference to bridge differences with the House version. The gap is wide. Reaching a deal on immigration, a major issue for construction, other business groups and unions, may depend on how hard President Bush pushes for an agreement.