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Senate supports sending National Guard to help secure US borders

[JURIST] The US Senate on Monday approved an immigration bill amendment supporting President Bush's deployment of National Guard troops along the Mexican border [JURIST report] by a margin of 83-10 [roll call]. Although the Bush administration says it has the authority to work with state governors to send National Guard troops to the border without Senate approval, the amendment, introduced by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) [official website], authorizes governors to make National Guard units from their states to perform annual duty training along the Mexican border, for no longer than 21 days. The National Guard troops would only support the Border Patrol already in place, and would be excluded from the Border Patrol's ability to search, seize or arrest illegal immigrants.

Also Monday, the Senate sidetracked an amendment proposed by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) [official website] by a margin of 50-43 [roll call] that would have allowed immigrant farmworkers to earn a "prevailing wage" if it is higher than the minimum wage.

President Bush has urged the Senate to approve an immigration bill by the end of May [JURIST report] and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) [official website] proposed a test vote on Wednesday for the entire immigration bill [text] with hopes of passing it by the end of the week. The Senate will likely obtain the 60 votes necessary to pass the bill given the high level of support it has received in the Senate so far. Although Senate passage seems likely [Washington Post report], it is less clear whether the negotiators from the House and Senate will be able to reach a compromise on immigration reform later this summer. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) [official website] insists that major legislation, such as this immigration bill, must be backed by a "majority of the majority." Under the policy, Hastert has blocked debate on proposals that don't have the support of a majority of Republicans in the House. A number of other key amendments [JURIST report] have already been adopted in the Senate, including one that would create an additional 370 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border and another that would deny the possibility of acquiring citizenship to illegal immigrants convicted of certain criminal offenses. AP has more.

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