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Senate defeats Bush’s immigration overhaul

Washington, June 28 (Reuters): The US Senate delivered an apparently fatal blow today to President George W. Bush’s planned immigration overhaul and dashed the hopes of millions of immigrants seeking legal status.

In a crucial make or break vote that exposed deep lack of support among Bush’s own Republicans, the legislation fell 14 votes short of the 60 votes needed in the 100-member Senate to advance toward a final vote.

Supporters of the bill, which was the result of months of negotiations between a group of Republican and Democratic senators and the White House, were dismayed by the vote.

Rosa Rosales, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said it was unlikely Congress would return to immigration reform before next year’s presidential election.

“No one benefits now, there is nothing to look forward ... it’s very disappointing,” Rosales said.

Bush has sought an overhaul of US immigration laws for years and this bill may have been his last chance for a significant domestic legislative victory before leaving office at the end of his second term in January 2009.

The President was unable to overcome fierce opposition from fellow Republicans who said it was an amnesty for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country and would do little to stem illegal immigration.

Even the promise of an additional $4.4 billion to pay for more border security and enforcement did not quell Republican opposition. The bill failed to gather even a simple majority. Only 46 senators — 33 Democrats, 12 Republicans and 1 independent — voted to advance the bill. Some 15 Democrats joined 37 Republicans and 1 independent to block the legislation.

It was the second time in as many weeks the Senate tried to pass the legislation. Immigration has already become an issue in the election campaign.

The bill tied tough border security and workplace enforcement measures to a plan to legalise illegal immigrants and create a temporary worker programme sought by business groups.

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