The Senate yesterday turned back a proposed amnesty for up to 1 million illegal immigrant agricultural workers and their families, though it gained support of more than half the chamber.
The votes came as part of the debate on the emergency supplemental appropriations bill to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The immigration provisions have held up action for the past week.
A third amendment to raise the cap on temporary seasonal nonfarm workers passed. The Senate then voted to limit debate on the spending bill, an indication that the bill likely will pass later this week.
The amnesty and guest-worker votes indicate that it may be difficult for Congress to pass any broader immigration reform this year.
The defeat of the “Ag-jobs” legislation sponsored by Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, was considered a significant vote by both supporters and opponents. Ag-jobs would have created a three-step path to citizenship for agricultural workers who were in the country illegally at the beginning of the year and had worked 100 days out of 12 months in the agriculture sector.
Immigration rights groups lobbied heavily for Mr. Craig’s amendment, while groups favoring limits begged their grass-roots supporters to communicate their opposition to senators.
In the end, the opponents claimed victory.
“The sense I got from [Capitol] Hill was that a number of senators had second thoughts because of strong constituent opposition to this,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports stricter limits on immigration.