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US immigration bill sees Senate breakthrough

Updated: 2013-06-20 08:47
( Agencies)

WASHINGTON - Prospects for US Senate passage of an immigration bill with strong bipartisan support brightened on Wednesday when a group of Republican and Democratic negotiators reached a tentative deal on ways to shore up border security, senators said.

After days of intensive negotiations, a small group of senators had hit upon a compromise that was being floated more broadly in order to gauge support, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters.

"I think we've overcome the issues that have separated the group in negotiations. I think we're together now," Corker said.

It was unclear how the new package might be received by senators who are considered to be undecided and Corker did not want to reveal details of the potential compromise.

A positive response could mean that the Senate next week would approve a sweeping immigration bill by a huge margin, giving it greater chances of success in the House of Representatives.

A Senate aide familiar with the talks said the tentative agreement called for "an unprecedented deployment" of law enforcement personnel at the southwestern border with Mexico and new commitments to strengthen border fences.

As the Senate worked on its legislation, 25 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with House Speaker John Boehner to discuss prospects for a bill in that chamber.

Democratic Representative Ruben Hinojosa of Texas, who chairs the caucus, said Boehner told them "there is a big effort on both sides of the aisle to come to some compromise" on a bipartisan bill that could pass in the Republican-led House.

The Senate bill, which would bring the biggest change in US immigration policy since 1986, would put 11 million undocumented residents on a pathway to citizenship, strengthen border security and update the US visa system.

Corker indicated that the tentative deal, which still could fall apart, contains additional money, on top of the more than $6 billion already in the bill, for border security operations.

A Republican demand that the Obama administration achieve a 90 percent success rate in stopping illegal border crossings as a condition for the pathway to citizenship was "not a sticking point anymore," Corker said. He would not elaborate.

Democrats have pressed hard to prevent such a link.

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