WASHINGTON – Majority Leader Bill Frist intends to seek Senate passage of immigration legislation by Memorial Day, hoping to revive a bill that tightens border security and gives millions of illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship, Republicans said yesterday.
In a gesture to conservative critics of the measure, Frist and other Republicans intend to seek roughly $2 billion in immediate additional spending for border protection.
Republicans said the money would allow for training of Border Patrol agents, construction of detention facilities for immigrants caught entering the country illegally, the purchase of helicopters and surveillance aircraft and construction of a fence in high-traffic areas.
GOP aides spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they did not want to pre-empt a formal announcement.
A sweeping immigration bill was gridlocked as lawmakers left town two weeks ago after Frist and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada failed to agree on a procedure for voting on amendments sought by Republicans opposed to the bill.
House Republicans have passed a bill that is limited to border security, but leaders have recently signaled they would be receptive to broader legislation.
The measure at the center of the Senate stalemate would create a complex set of regulations for the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.
Officials said an estimated 9 million of them, those who could show they had been in the United States for more than two years, eventually would become eligible for citizenship under the proposal.