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Bush calls for 'civil' immigration reform debate ahead of Senate showdown

[JURIST] President Bush Thursday called [White House transcript] for policymakers considering the incendiary issue of immigration reform to conduct themselves "in a civil way...that brings dignity to the process" and hammer out legislation that is "comprehensive and rational and achieves important objectives." While several bills have been proposed [JURIST report], the Senate is about to take up draft legislation [PDF summary; text] by Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) that would provide more immigrant visas, tighten border security, and increase civil penalties for employers caught hiring illegal workers. AP has more.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] has meanwhile announced [press release] his opposition to the Frist proposal, saying that the problem cannot be solved with enforcement alone [Reid press release] and insisting that any reform proposal must include a guest worker provision left out of the Frist proposal albeit endorsed by the President [White House transcript], as well as a "path to citizenship" for the illegal immigrant population currently working in the US, currently estimated at 12 million people [JURIST report]. Reid also said he intended to "use every procedural means at my disposal" to prevent Frist from bypassing the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring the bill to a vote before the full Senate. Reid said he favored alternative legislation [summary] introduced by Sens. Edward Kennedy and John McCain. AP has more.

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