White House, senators strike deal on immigration

WASHINGTON, May 17 (Xinhua) — Key U.S. Democratic and Republican senators said on Thursday that they have reached a deal with the White House on immigration reform, which could secure U.S. borders and provide legal status to millions of illegal workers in the country.

The proposal would help secure the U.S. border but “equally importantly, it’ll treat people with respect,” said President George W. Bush.

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“I really am anxious to sign a comprehensive immigration bill as soon as I possibly can. Today we took a good step toward that direction,” said Bush.

Under the agreement, which was reached after weeks of closed-door negotiations, a temporary worker program would be set up, and skills and education level would be weighted more heavily than family connections in deciding whether immigrants should get permanent legal status.

The deal was “the best possible chance we will have in years to secure our borders and bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America,” said Senator Edward Kennedy, the Democratic Party’s lead negotiator on the deal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the proposal was a “starting point,” but that he had “serious concerns” about some aspects of the plan, including the structure of the temporary worker program and undue limitations on family immigration.

“We need to improve the bill as it moves through the legislative process,” he said.

Bush has called for the establishment of a guest worker program in the past, but the proposal failed to become law because of strong opposition from some lawmakers.

The Republican-controlled House passed an immigration bill during the last Congress, which would have made all undocumented immigrants inside the country criminals and required all employers to verify the immigration status of their employees.