27.3.06

CONTEMPLATING THE TRADEOFFS. Immigrant-rights protests continue as Congress debates competing proposals.

The Senate is set to begin debate Tuesday on the first comprehensive rewrite of U.S. immigration laws in a decade.

“We're facing a difficult situation, because we have approximately 11 million undocumented aliens here and we've got to find some way to deal with them,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Sunday on ABC's This Week.

Tackling that problem has been one of Bush's priorities since his first term, but it poses a political challenge or him: He must balance the demands of conservative Republicans who want a crackdown on illegal immigration, business leaders who say the nation needs more immigrant workers and Republican Party operatives, such as national Chairman Ken Mehlman, who have been wooing the Hispanic vote.

The president expressed concern last week about the political fallout. “This could be a fractious debate.”

Fine. Consensus is for easy problems.

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