- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2006

Republicans continued meeting late yesterday in Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s office in hopes of reaching a compromise on immigration that would unite their caucus.

The immigration bill now on the Senate floor has splintered Republicans in Congress on an issue that polls show is a top priority for voters.

Supporters of the bill say the more than 11 million illegal aliens in the country deserve a path to full citizenship after paying a fine. Other Republicans say those illegals should be required to go home before applying for citizenship. Still others say the illegals should go home and the border should be closed until the government proves it can handle immigration in an orderly way.

One proposal that has been discussed would let illegal aliens who have been in the U.S. five years or more apply freely for citizenship, while those in the country less than five years could do so only at a point of entry into the U.S.

“Five years seems to be a reasonable line,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, who supports the current bill.

Another proposed compromise floating around would allow only those who have overstayed their visas to apply directly for citizenship. Anyone who had sneaked across the border would be required to return.

But neither of the proposals would satisfy Senate conservatives.

Drawing the five-year line still would grant what they call “amnesty” to millions of illegal aliens, because they would not be forced to go home before applying for citizenship.

And allowing those who have overstayed their visas to apply directly for citizenship also raises concerns. Several of the September 11, 2001, hijackers had overstayed their visas, conservatives said.

Even if Senate conservatives can be mollified, House conservatives are not expected to support anything that goes beyond securing the borders. Meetings will continue today, with a gathering of the entire caucus in the Capitol at 9 a.m., Mr. Specter said.

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