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US House leaders put immigration bill negotiations on hold

[JURIST] Republican leaders in the US House of Representatives [official website] announced Tuesday that they would postpone final negotiations on immigration reform legislation [JURIST news archive] until after hearings around the country in the coming months. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has told House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner to prepare for an unusual round of "field hearings" beginning in August to gauge public opinion. The delay makes the passage of a comprehensive bill before November's midterm elections unlikely, even though both chambers have approved immigration legislation -- the Senate [JURIST report] in May and the House [JURIST report] late last year. The Senate bill [S 2611 summary] would set millions of illegal immigrants on a path to potential citizenship and would authorize a temporary worker program, while the more restrictive House version [HR 4437 summary] makes unlawful presence in the US a felony subject to deportation and could punish humanitarian groups aiding illegals. In a speech earlier this month, President Bush once again urged Congress [JURIST report] to reconcile the competing versions and send him a comprehensive bill.

Additional field hearings will be scheduled by the chairmen of the House Homeland Security and Government Reform committees [official websites], and possibly others as well. AP has more. The Washington Times has additional coverage.

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