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US immigration deal in peril

The legislation would allow the undocumented residents to remain in US, but would boot out many others.

india Updated: Apr 07, 2006 18:44 IST

The US Senate has reached a breakthrough agreement on legislation that would grant legal residency status to millions of undocumented residents in the United States.

The 11th-hour legislation would allow many undocumented residents to remain in the United States, but would boot out hundreds of thousands of others.

"I'm pleased that Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate are working together to get a comprehensive immigration Bill," President George W Bush said in a statement welcoming the accord.

At a press conference on Thursday, Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist also hailed the agreement, saying: "We've had a huge breakthrough ... That will lead us to the conclusion of passing a very important bill."

The deal, in the form of an amendment by Republican senators Chuck Hagel and Mel Martinez, would allow undocumented residents who arrived in the United States five years ago or earlier to obtain legal status if they meet various requirements, including passing a criminal background check and having been employed in the United States for at least three of the previous five years.

Congressionals officials estimate that about seven million people fall into this category.

Undocumented residents living in the United States for less than five years but more than two years could obtain a temporary work visa under the legislation.

But they first must exit the country and would be fingerprinted and processed at a land port of entry.

Lawmakers said a vote on the Senate legislation could occur tonight -- just before Congress goes on a two-week break.