Special Report: Immigration Bill

Article excerpt

Washington, DC, United States (Reuters) - The push for comprehensive immigration legislation faces an uncertain fate in the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives even as Senate supporters voiced optimism on Thursday for overwhelming backing in that chamber.

As the Democratic Party-controlled Senate pushed ahead on an 844-page bill that aims to rewrite America's immigration law, the Republican-controlled House was still undecided on how broad of a bill it might consider - or even if it would advance legislation this year.

That was the message delivered Thursday by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who told reporters that he would be introducing a series of individual bills, starting with legislation to help farmers get foreign workers and improving an electronic system to help businesses be sure they are hiring legal workers.

"We have made no decisions about how to proceed," Goodlatte said at a news conference, adding he did not know whether his committee would try to advance "individual bills or whether it would pertain to a larger bill."

He did however say that he hoped some sort of legislation could pass in 2013.

Goodlatte's uncertainty is in contrast to senators who have advanced a comprehensive immigration bill that is expected to be debated next month by the Senate Judiciary Committee. That measure would put the 11 million people living illegally in the United States on a 13-year path to citizenship.

Two authors of that bipartisan bill said on Thursday they are hopeful most Senate Democrats and Republicans will support their White House-backed measure.

"It is very doable," Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said of the prospects of attracting wide bipartisan backing. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York agreed.

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to debate, and most likely amend, the newly introduced bill as Democrats aim to get full Senate approval by late June.

Goodlatte refused to set up any such timetable for House action.

Referring to the November, 2014 congressional elections, the Virginia Republican said: "Election years are more difficult than non-election years" for passing major, controversial legislation. "But I'll also say that it is far more important that we get this right this time. …