The Senate on Thursday took up what a key senator called the "gigantic task" of tightening U.S. borders against illegal immigrants while also allowing those already here to stay as low-wage workers for American businesses.
The effort pits two Republican bases in an election-year fight against each other — social conservatives who want the government to take a harder line against illegal immigrants and employers who want those immigrants for jobs.
"I have seen virtually no agreement on anything. Emotions are at an all-time high," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said, opening the first of several meetings by his panel for writing a bill.
Specter said he hoped his committee could have legislation ready by the end of March.