[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] has approved the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 [S 2611 summary] by a vote of 62-36 [roll call]. The bill would set millions of illegal immigrants on a path to potential citizenship and would authorize a temporary worker program. Thirty-two of the thirty-six senators voting against the bill were Republicans, including Trent Lott, Rick Santorum, and Orrin Hatch. Republican Senators Arlen Specter, Bill Frist, Chuck Hagel, John McCain and most Democrats supported the legislation. The vote follows several weeks of debate [JURIST report] during which senators made several changes to the bill, including:
- authorizing state governors to deploy National Guard troops to the Mexican border;
- creating an additional 370 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border;
- preventing illegal immigrants convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors from "participating in a program that places them on a pathway to citizenship";
- imposing fines on employers of undocumented workers; and
- adding provisions on the status of the English language in the United States [JURIST reports].
Members of both houses of Congress must now convene in a conference committee to reconcile their separate bills on immigration reform [JURIST news archive]. Late last year the US House of Representatives passed [JURIST report] the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act [PDF text; summary], a more restrictive version of immigration reform which makes unlawful presence in the US a felony subject to deportation and could punish humanitarian groups aiding illegals.