The bid to reform America’s dated immigration laws has received a major boost with New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte set to back the bill proposing sweeping changes.
The New York Times reports that Senator Ayotte is to support the proposed changes in legislation which she has described as ‘thoughtful reform’.
Her backing is a major boost for the proposals and will offer hope to the thousands of illegal Irish in the United States. The floor debate in the senate starts this week. It has already passed out of committee on an unexpectedly strong vote of 13-5 in favor.
The senator has confirmed, in a report filed by the Reuters agency, that she will throw her support behind the reforms designed to ease the burden of illegal immigration and allow companies to more easily hire qualified workers.
Her support, which has been courted by the bill’s backers will encourage other Republicans to endorse the measure in the Senate where a vote is expected by the end of June.
New Hampshire Senator Ayotte told CBS' “Face the Nation” program: “Our immigration system is completely broken.
“This is a thoughtful, bipartisan solution to a tough problem, and so that is why I am going to support it.”
An ally of Senator John McCain of Arizona, one of the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators who crafted the bill, Ayotte added: “It will improve border security and ensure the U.S. economy, particularly its high-tech sector, is able to attract the best workers.
“The bill also deals with the problem of having 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the nation.”
The report says the Senate bill is expected to get strong support among Democrats but will need some Republican votes to meet the 60-vote minimum required for passage. Hoever Gang of Eigth members now beleived they could get support in the high sixties for the bill.
Key Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky also indicated over the weekend he was in favor of the bill if the border crossing provisions were stepped up.
Supporters of the bill believe the overhaul of immigration laws faces its toughest challenge in the Republican-led House of Representatives.
Conservatives have been accused of skepticism about the central aspect of the Senate bill, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The Senate bill is backed by President Barack Obama and proposes billions in new spending for enhanced border security.
It would also create new visa programs for high- and low-skilled workers.
President Obama has made immigration reform a top priority of his second term.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky also, said on Sunday that he is open to voting for the bill but added that he would insist on changes, including provisions to toughen border security.
Paul, a potential candidate for a presidential run in 2016, has backed the concept of a path to citizenship for the undocumented.
But he has criticized the bill for not having a mechanism to assure that the U.S. border with Mexico is secure. The report says he also wants visa programs that allow companies to hire foreign workers expanded.
The Senator said: “I am the conduit between conservatives in the House who don't want a lot of these things and more moderate people in the Senate who do want these things. I want to make the bill work, but see, the thing is, what they have in the Senate has zero chance of passing in the House.
“I'm really trying to make immigration work, but they are going to have to come to me and they're going to have to work to make the bill stronger if they want me to vote for it.”
The New York Times report says both Republican and Democratic senators are likely to offer amendments to the bill to bolster border security, considered by critics to be a weak link in broad immigration reform.
Critics warn of the risk of a repeat of 1986 when President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that offered amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants but failed to obtain the level of border security that backers had anticipated.
They claim that the 1986 amnesty ended up attracting more illegal immigrants.
Democrats have already stated they will fight any amendments, including those on border security, that would create too many obstacles to the 13-year path to citizenship included in the Senate bill.