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House backs border security bill

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] late Friday evening narrowly approved [roll call vote] a tough new border security and immigration bill that includes plans to build a security fence across 621 miles of the Mexican border and authorizes the US Department of Homeland Security to study the possibility of placing barriers across the famously "undefended" US border with Canada, the longest undefended border line in the world. HR 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 [bill summary], would also reclassify being in the US illegally as a criminal rather than a civil offense, would require employers to conduct immigration status checks of their employees, and would cease the practice of releasing non-Mexican illegals on bond pending a hearing. Critics of the legislation, including Mexican President Vicente Fox, say the measures would be largely ineffective [AP report] or unenforceable and do not address the root causes of illegal immigration into the US. Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] issued a statement saying that the reforms passed by the House "will not contribute to a better, more integral bilateral management of migration issues." The immigration bill now goes before the Senate, and President Bush has urged the Senate [press release] "to take action on immigration reform so that I can sign a good bill into law." The House did not vote on Bush's proposed guest worker program [White House backgrounder], leaving the issue for next year. Bush has called for undocumented aliens already in the US to be given three-year work visas; when the visas expire, the immigrants would have to return to their home countries to apply for a new permit. AP has more.

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