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News Analysis: Historic U.S. immigration bill may sink in House after sailing through Senate

English.news.cn   2013-06-29 05:02:25            

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Xinhua) -- While the U.S. Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill on Thursday, supporters may not want to break out the Champagne just yet, as the celebrations could be cut short once the bill hits the House of Representatives.

The landmark bill includes plans to spend more than 40 billion U.S. dollars to beef up the U.S.-Mexico border with thousands of additional law enforcement personnel.

It also provides a 13-year path to citizenship for roughly 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, whereby they would pay fines and back taxes before becoming eligible for legal status.

Despite the bitter partisan rivalry so characteristic of this Congress, Senate Democrats were able to court 14 Republicans in a 68 to 32 vote.

But experts, pundits and Washington watchers contend the bill could breathe its last breath in the House.

Indeed, many conservatives in the GOP-controlled House are against the legislation's centerpiece path to citizenship, which they blast as blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants.

Many call first for strengthened border security before the path to citizenship can occur, despite the bill's provision to add 20,000 border guards and expensive technology such as drones and infrared cameras.

"For many in the GOP in the House, a successful immigration bill would be one that focuses solely on border security," said Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.

"It would not contain any of the citizenship provisions that are considered 'amnesty' on the far right," he told Xinhua.

While the Senate's so-called "border surge" provisions mark the best chance for a passable bill, the path to citizenship for existing undocumented immigrants is a bridge too far for conservatives, Mahaffee said.

On Friday, Republican Representative Tim Huelskamp told the " Laura Ingraham show," a nationally syndicated radio talk show, that he was "absolutely confident that a majority of Republicans are not going to give citizenship to 11 million illegal aliens."

That comment came on the heels of House Speaker John Boehner's assertion on Thursday that the House "is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes."

The House would chart its own legislation with a focus on border security, he said, adding that "It'll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people."

Much is riding on immigration reform, a make-or-break effort for Republicans to get Hispanics on board after losing 71 percent of the Latino vote in November's presidential elections.

At a time when whites are steadily becoming a minority, according to the U.S. census, many GOP lawmakers believe Republicans are in big trouble if they continue to be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as the party that excludes minorities.

Hispanics, a major voting block in the United States, favor immigration reform, and the GOP sees the issue as a chance to make inroads with the group, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats in last year's presidential elections.

With 50,000 Hispanics reaching voting age every month in the United States, analysts say the party risks becoming obsolete without more support from Hispanics and other minorities.

Editor: yan
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