WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Wednesday to slash the number of foreign workers who could come to the U.S. on temporary visas as lawmakers in both parties sought major revisions in a broad bipartisan immigration bill.
A new guest worker program would be capped at 200,000 a year under the Democratic proposal, which passed 74-24 over strong opposition by the Bush administration.
Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said the change, proposed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., would interfere with a "central component" of the White House-backed immigration measure. That plan provided for 400,000 worker visas annually, plus an option to increase that number to 600,000 if market conditions demand it.
"The Bingaman amendment would eliminate this critical flexibility and cut the size of the temporary worker program in half," Gutierrez said in a statement.
Senators also endorsed a move by Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire to toughen the bill's so-called triggers, which condition the temporary worker program and the granting of legal status to illegal immigrants to strict border security and workplace enforcement measures. They also adopted a proposal by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to crack down with mandatory prison sentences on illegal immigrants who re-enter the U.S.
Still not good enough but it is a start, they need to deport all illegal immigrants and make them follow the same procedures that the lawful immigrants have had to follow.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was seeking to bar unlawful immigrants who have been ordered deported from gaining legal status. His proposal would also ensure that terrorists, gang members, sex offenders, gun smugglers or repeat drunken drivers are barred.