Immigration Groups Slow the Push for Change The Senate's sweeping immigration bill was defeated last month, but both sides say they will push for passage of some of the bill's measures one at a time.
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Immigration Groups Slow the Push for Change

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Immigration Groups Slow the Push for Change

Immigration Groups Slow the Push for Change

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The Senate effort to pass a sweeping immigration bill suffered a resounding defeat 10 days ago. But that doesn't mean all the ideas in it are dead. Advocates on both sides of the debate are hoping to push Congress to adopt piecemeal, some of the bill's various measures.

NPR's Jennifer Ludden has our report.

JENNIFER LUDDEN: Dan Kowalski edits Bender's Immigration Bulletin, a journal Web site for immigration specialists. He says it may be just as well that the Senate's unwieldy and wide-ranging bill collapsed.

Mr. DAN KOWALSKI (Editor, Bender's Immigration Bulletin): It's likely that the smaller pieces not only will survive, but will thrive.

LUDDEN: He points out some of the same Senators who ardently opposed the bill, actually supports some of its component parts. Like the dream act that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition so more could attend college. Its main sponsor has been Republican conservative Orrin Hatch. Kowalski says there's also significant support for ag-jobs, which would legalize about a million farm workers and for increasing the number of visas for high-tech workers. Right now, only 65,000 are issued each year - far below demand. This spring, the cap was reached in one day. Angelo Amador is with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. ANGELO AMADOR (Director of Immigration Policy, United States Chamber of Commerce): In a temporary fix, we will be creating a cap. You know, maybe 200,000 for the next couple of years. But at some point, all of these numbers need to have some resemblance to the needs of the market. So they need to be able to go up or down.

ELLIOT: Analyst Kowalski believes measures like these won't attract as much opposition as the proposal to legalize some 12 million immigrants in the U.S., an idea critics labeled amnesty.

Mr. KOWALSKI: The restriction is - feel so happy that the big bill was defeated that they won't be able - I'm hoping they won't be able to muster enough support or emotional energy to counter the smaller pieces as they come up.

Ms. ROSEMARY JENKS (Director of Government Relations, NumbersUSA): They just didn't get it.

LUDDEN: Rosemary Jenks is with NumbersUSA, which wants to reduce immigration.

Ms. JENKS: The reason that the bill failed is because the American people reacted. They cried out in numbers that we've never seen before, and they were not saying give us just the amnesty.

LUDDEN: Jenks would love for some of the Senate bills top enforcement measures to be passed on their own. But the administration may clear that's not likely for one thing some $4.4 billion promised for enforcement was to have been raised through the fees of millions of immigrants seeking legalization.

Still Jenks says she'll push for smaller things like expanding so-called expedited removal to deport foreigners more quickly using better technology at border checkpoints and most importantly having the Social Security Administration share its information with the immigration agency.

Jenks says this would show for example when more than one business is employing a worker with the same Social Security number.

Ms. JENKS: You know, if it's some meat packing plant in Nebraska that's staying in and a department store in New York City it's probably not the same person working in both places.

LUDDEN: Jenks says the administration has the power to do all these things on its own. But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff recently told Fox News the next move is up to Congress.

Secretary MICHAEL CHERTOFF (U.S. Department of Homeland Security): They've tried enforcement only that did not pass. We tried comprehensive that's stalled. I think it's now time for Congress, which has the power to legislate to make a determination about how it wants to help us solve this problem.

LUDDEN: Not everyone's waiting for Congress. For example, Microsoft recently announced it will open a new center in Canada, in part, so we can employ high-tech workers caught up in the U.S.'s backlog visa system.

Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington.

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