The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Monday to allow illegal immigrants who get legal status to begin collecting tax-welfare payments, as the panel spent a fourth day working through amendments to the massive immigration bill and party-line splits began to emerge.
In one major change, the committee voted 17-1 to make a third drunken-driving conviction a deportable offense for the newly legalized immigrants if at least one of those offenses occurs after they are approved for legal status.
But immigrant-rights groups called that a rollback of due-process rights for the immigrants and said a drunken-driving incident shouldnâ€™t cost someone a chance at citizenship.
â€œWe cannot and will not support hard-line proposals that take away discretion and limit an individualâ€™s ability to pursue the pathway to citizenship,â€ said Paromita Shah, associate director of the National Lawyers Guildâ€™s National Immigration Project.
Overall, the committee continued to maintain the delicate balance struck by the â€œGang of Eightâ€ senators who negotiated the 867-page bill: Quick legal status for illegal immigrants, but delaying citizenship rights until after the administration spends more money on border security, puts in place a new electronic verification system to check workersâ€™ status, and enacts an entry-exit system to check visas at airports and seaports.
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