(CNSNews.com) - A group of conservative Republicans has sent a letter to Sen. Harry Reid, asking the majority leader to let Americans see what's in the Democrats' immigration reform bill before it comes up for debate and a vote.
"We understand that you are committed to working to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation, and that you plan to bring a bill to the Senate floor in the next few weeks," the letter said.
"Due to the seriousness and complexity of the issue, we ask that you make any comprehensive immigration reform legislation publicly available online at least one week prior to moving it on the Senate floor."
The letter is signed by 15 Republican senators.
In early January, Sen. Reid introduced S. 9, the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007."
It's described as "a bill to recognize the heritage of the United States as a nation of immigrants and to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for more effective border and employment enforcement, to prevent illegal immigration, and to reform and rationalize avenues for legal immigration, and for other purposes."
A bipartisan group of senators has been working on the bill, which is expected to generate heated debate when it reaches the Senate floor next month.
In a message on his website, Reid says he's "strongly opposed to illegal immigration," but he also says the nation's immigration system is "broken and in need of reform."
"I believe that everyone who comes into the United States must be screened and every worker must have legal authorization to work," he says.
"I believe reform should include strong and effective enforcement of our borders, tough sanctions against employers who hire undocumented immigrants, a temporary worker program, and an opportunity for undocumented immigrants currently in this country to get right with the law and earn their way to U.S. citizenship if they work hard for several years, learn English, pay their taxes, pass a criminal background check, and pay fines and penalties for being here unlawfully.
"I support immigration reform that protects the U.S. economy and American competitiveness, while also safeguarding the rights and wages of American workers," Reid said.
Sen. Jim DeMint, one of the 15 Republicans who asked for an advance look at Reid's bill, says immigrants looking for a better future in America must come to the country through legal channels.
DeMint agrees the current immigration system must be reformed, but he strongly opposes amnesty.
"For individuals who are already in the United States illegally, I do not support any form of amnesty and will continue to vote against it. We cannot reward illegal behavior with a path to citizenship, voting rights, or Social Security benefits," DeMint says on his website.
"We must stem the flood of illegal aliens into our country and take control of our borders."
DeMint is among those who argue that "comprehensive reform" can happen only when the U.S. gets its border under control.
DeMint chairs the Senate Steering Committee, a caucus of conservative senators that includes the majority of the Republican Conference.
President Bush, in a speech to graduates at Miami Dade College over the weekend, urged members of the Hispanic community to support comprehensive immigration reform.
"We need a system where our laws are respected. We need a system that meets the legitimate needs of our economy. And we need a system that treats people with dignity and helps newcomers assimilate into our society," Bush said.
But President Bush's insistence on a guest worker program -- and an eventual path to citizenship (he refuses to call it amnesty) -- does not sit well with many grassroots conservatives.
Last week, more than a hundred anti-illegal immigration activists gathered in Washington, to "hold [lawmakers'] feet to the fire." The activists are trying to prevent passage of a bill that features a guest worker program and a path to citizenship -- a bill like the one Sen. Reid plans to bring to the Senate floor.
See Earlier Stories:
Anti-Illegal Immigration Activists Swarm Capitol (April 24, 2007)
Bush Immigration Speech Dismissed as 'Nothing New' (10 April 2007)
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