US immigration fight begins in Congress

This week the US Congress opened the first debate for six years, since 2007, on a bill to comprehensively reform the immigration laws in the country, testing whether labor and business groups will be able to hold together on what is a delicately crafted bill that is already being attacked by some quarters.

For 11 million undocumented immigrants who already live in the United States, the legislation in the Senate is their greatest chance of having the threat of deportation removed and a path to citizenship charted after the last big push in Congress to reform the immigration laws (last altered back in 1986) died six years ago.

The bill is an ambitious one, aiming to put more federal dollars into the strengthening of the US border to stop illegal crossings and intending to revamp a dated US visas system to allow more low- and high-skilled foreign workers to be able to enter the country.  It looks like being a tough fight ahead, with the Heritage Foundation releasing a study on Monday that claims the legislation will end up costing the US around $6.3 trillion across the next half a century once undocumented immigrants gain citizenship and become eligible for government projects.

Many other conservatives have attacked the study, however, pointing out that it fails to take into account the kind of economic benefits that will arise as a result of legalizing the immigrants.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is to start considering the measure from tomorrow.