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US House leaders begin nationwide immigration hearings

[JURIST] Republicans from the US House of Representatives [official website] begin a series of immigration hearings Wednesday in order to assess the threats at the country's borders and the labor needs to combat those threats in preparation for final negotiations on comprehensive immigration reform [JURIST news archive]. The House International Relations Committee Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation [official website] will hold a hearing [meeting notice] Wednesday at the San Diego Border Patrol station to look at security lapses, and the same panel will convene a second hearing [meeting notice] at a border patrol station in Laredo, Texas on Friday. In addition, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] will host a hearing in Philadelphia Wednesday to assess the need for foreign workers. House Republican leaders called for the "field hearings" [JURIST report] in June. The nationwide hearings will continue through mid-August and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has said that the hearings will invite public comment on immigration issues [JURIST report]. Congressional negotiations on the immigration reform bill have been put on hold until the hearings are complete.

There are few similarities between the Senate immigration reform bill [S 2611 summary; JURIST report] and the House version [HR 4437 summary; JURIST report], which must be reconciled before a bill can be presented to the president for signature. Last month, President Bush called on lawmakers to find a "rational middle ground" [JURIST report] between the Senate version, which includes a pathway to citizenship favored by Bush, and the House bill, which focuses on law enforcement. The series of field hearings make passage of a comprehensive bill before November's midterm elections unlikely, though Republican House leaders deny that they timed the hearings [JURIST report] to postpone negotiations until after the elections. AP has more.

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