Senate Breaks Deadlock On Immigration

generic immigration INS capitol congress senate illegal aliens
CBS/AP
Senate leaders say they have reached a deal to revive a broad immigration bill that could provide millions of illegal immigrants a chance to become American citizens. The agreement doesn't involve provisions of the law, but it does end, for now, a lingering political standoff.

The agreement brokered by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., breaks a political stalemate that has lingered for weeks.

Key to the agreement is who will be negotiating a compromise with the House and its tough enforcement-only bill.

The House passed much more strict immigration legislation in December. It would subject the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States to felony charges as well as deportation.

Republican leader Bill Frist says the Senate will send 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats to the other side of the Capitol to negotiate a compromise. Seven of the Democrats will be hand-picked by Democratic leader Harry Reid.

Frist said a "considerable" number of amendments would be debated when the Senate begins debating the bill early next week.

Reid acknowledged on the Senate floor Thursday morning that he "didn't get everything that I wanted" in the agreement, but said Frist didn't either. Reaching the agreement is "not easy with the political atmosphere," Reid said.

Reid had been taking some criticism for refusing to move forward on the bill after complaining that Republicans were trying to undermine it with amendments and insisting that Democrats be allowed to have a say in who serves on the conference committee.

The Senate's first compromise on immigration fell apart in early April amid partisan bickering over adding amendments to the legislation. The bill managed only 38 votes on a key procedural test, far short of the 60 needed to advance.

But, as the Senate has moved on to other issues, immigration reform has not left the public debate.

On May 1st, more than 1 million people stepped out of the shadows and poured into the streets in a U.S.-wide show of economic clout.

The multi-city boycott – called a "Day Without Immigrants" – was organized by immigrant activists angered by federal legislation that would criminalize the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants and fortify the U.S.-Mexico border.