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Senate divided on immigration reform bills

[JURIST] Members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Thursday began hammering out an immigration reform bill in the face of several competing proposals that have bitterly divided lawmakers. Committee Chairman Senator Arlen Specter's Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 [draft text PDF] has come in for sharp criticism [letter] from the American Bar Association (ABA) [profession website], which opposes key provisions criminalizing the "unlawful presence" of aliens, eliminating or severely restricting judicial review now available to undocumented immigrants, and overturning Supreme Court precedent to expand the grounds for the indefinite detention of undocumented immigrants. One alternative reform proposal [bill summary] sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) would provide undocumented aliens with a path towards eventual citizenship, and another [press release materials] sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) would require workers to return to their home countries before applying for permanent status.

Specter said Thursday that "emotions [were] at an all-time high" during the first day of debate; the issue reveals a split between conservative Republicans and others who are more socially or commercially tolerant of undocumented labor. President Bush proposed a temporary worker bill [JURIST report] last November, which was critized by many Republicans as providing "backdoor amnesty" for illegal workers. AP has more.

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