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Immigration Reform Clears U.S. Senate

Location: Washington, DC

Immigration Reform Clears U.S. Senate

Bill includes Nelson detention, border surveillance measures

With strong bipartisan support, the Senate today by 62-36 approved sweeping immigration reform that backers believe will help secure the country's borders while also dealing fairly with the millions of illegal immigrants already living and working in the U.S.

Among the bill's key authors is Senator Mel Martinez ( R-FL ). And included in the bill are several provisions to toughen border security as offered by Senator Bill Nelson ( D-FL ). Specifically, the broader immigration bill contains Nelson amendments or language that:

Requires the Department of Homeland Security ( DHS ) to increase its detention facilities by 20,000 beds. This amendment doubled the number of detention beds required in the original version of the bill. Requires the use of new technologies to efficiently and effectively secure the border, including unmanned aerial vehicles and integrated and automated surveillance equipment. Requires the hiring of 150 more Department of Justice lawyers and other staff than initially sought by the bill's crafters. These staff will help litigate cases involving illegal aliens before their deportation.

"This bill will make our country safer, while still meeting the needs of a national economy that depends on new workers," said Nelson. "It deals with millions of immigrants already in the country by deporting some, and allowing others who meet strict requirements to request legal status. They'll have to learn English, pass a criminal background check, maintain a lengthy record of employment and pay any back taxes, plus pay a hefty fine."

The Senate-passed bill differs markedly from one that cleared the House late last year. The House version, in essence, makes felons out of every single undocumented worker and anyone who aids them, regardless of any mitigating circumstances. The two chambers now must resolve the differences, if a bill is to become law.

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