The United States has always been a nation of immigrants. Currently,
there are 33 million foreign-born residents -- the largest number
since the Census Bureau started keeping such statistics in 1850,
the New York Times reported.
What concerns lawmakers are the estimated 11 million illegal
immigrants who entered the country without permission and remain
In December, the House of Representatives passed a strict immigration
reform bill that makes living in the United States without documents
a criminal offense, proposes building fences along U.S. borders
and imposes harsh penalties on those who hire or help illegal
Lawmakers who support this bill see illegal immigrants as lawbreakers
who threaten national security and take jobs away from Americans.
"For years, the government has turned a blind eye to illegal
immigrants who break into this country," Republican Representative
Tom Tancredo of Colorado told the New York Times.
"It isn't any wonder that illegal aliens now act as if they
are entitled to the rights and privileges of citizenship."
Lawmakers in favor of a proposal introduced in the Senate offer
a different point of view -- that of illegal immigrants performing
jobs many Americans refuse to do and providing a new pool of potential
"Are we going to continue a rich tradition of hundreds of
years of welcoming new blood and new vitality to our nation, or
are we going to adopt a protectionist, isolationist attitude and
policies that are in betrayal of the very fundamentals of this
great nation of ours, a beacon of hope, and liberty, and freedom
throughout the world?" Republican Senator John McCain of
The bill, which has yet to be debated by the full Senate, would
strengthen border enforcement, regulate the flow of "guest
workers," and create solutions to legalize some immigrants
already living and working in this country.
Not all senators agree with the proposed legislation, however.
"I don't think we should legislate a track that gives a
privileged status to people who broke the law," Senate Majority
Leader Bill Frist, who has introduced a different immigration
bill with security as its central element, told CNN.