Washington Putting aside party differences, Senate Republicans and Democrats coalesced Thursday around compromise legislation that holds out the hope of citizenship to many of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States unlawfully.
"We can no longer afford to delay reform," said Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in a statement that capped weeks of struggle to find common ground.
But delay soon set in as party leaders became embroiled in a procedural dispute that threatened prospects for passage by week's end, if not longer. Democrats blocked votes on Republican amendments, and Republicans responded by accusing Democrats of trying to scuttle a bill they had embraced earlier in the day.
President Bush said he was pleased with the announced compromise, and urged the Senate to pass legislation by week's end.
Officials described a complex series of provisions, including:
¢ Illegal immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years could receive legal status after meeting several conditions, including payment of a $2,000 fine and any back taxes, clearing a background check and learning English. After six more years, they could apply for permanent residency without leaving the United States. They could seek citizenship five years later.
¢ Illegal immigrants in the country for between two and five years could obtain a temporary work visa after reporting to a border point of entry.
¢ Illegal immigrants in the United States for less than two years would be required to leave the country and apply for re-entry alongside anyone else seeking to emigrate.