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Kyl: Immigration overhaul to hurt

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Any compromise from Congress on overhauling the nation’s broken immigration system won’t fit the agendas of all politicians, nor will it confront all the personal circumstances of the estimated 11 million people who are in the country illegally, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl said yesterday.

Kyl said the country’s immigration problems have mounted for years and that any changes from Congress will be painful.

“There’s no really good solution to getting out of it,” the Arizona Republican said. “It’s just a question of among all the relatively poor answers, what’s the one that is the best one of the group.”

Kyl said a bill he co-sponsored with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas might serve as a middle ground for lawmakers divided between exclusively beefing up border security, and those wanting to create automatic citizenship for illegal immigrants.

His bill includes a provision that would let illegal immigrants work in the U.S. for five years and require them to return to their countries before applying to re-enter.

“There are times when you need more workers, there are times when you don’t,” Kyl said. “The program ought to reflect that.”

Kyl said he’s unsure whether his voluntary return idea will survive any compromise that may come when Congress takes up the issue again.

There’s a good possibility that immigrant rights marches across the country Monday might encourage Democratic leaders to clear the logjam, Kyl said.

The senator said a compromise should specify that guest workers can work here only on a temporary basis and not provide an automatic path to citizenship for those who sneaked into the country.

Congress and the Bush administration also would have to adequately fund enforcement efforts, such as more Border Patrol agents, border fencing and aid to states for jailing immigrants convicted of crimes while in the country, Kyl said.

Critics of the government’s border and interior enforcement efforts are right to question whether a new immigration overhaul is going to be “the usual every 10-year trick on the American people,” Kyl said.

“They have a good question: if it hasn’t been enforced in the past, why do we think it’s going to be enforced in the future?” he said.

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