Senate postpones debate on immigration proposals

NATION DIGEST

March 29, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Senators agreed yesterday to briefly delay their debate on immigration reform, giving lawmakers time to work for greater consensus on an issue that has sparked a furor on Capitol Hill and around the country.

With negotiations continuing behind the scenes, it remained unclear which of several competing proposals might gain momentum.

The Senate, which initially had planned to begin its debate yesterday, could start its deliberations late today or tomorrow. Democrats and the chamber's Republican majority have agreed that discussions will focus first only on border security.

As a result, the more controversial aspects of the push to revise immigration laws - especially proposals to create guest worker programs that would offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship - might not be confronted until next week.

The delay resulted partly from divisions among Republicans, which reflect differences of opinion nationwide.

Some Republican lawmakers think the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States should be declared criminals and that border security should be the main focus of reform efforts.

Others view undocumented immigrants as an important source of labor and favor plans to create temporary work visas that in some cases could be a path to citizenship.

Meanwhile, protests have been held this week from North Carolina to California. The demonstrations continued yesterday on a smaller scale, and more are planned for today in such places as Nashville, Tenn.

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