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No End in Sight to Immigration Debate

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

NPR's Jennifer Ludden, who covers immigration, has been listening in. And Jennifer, I'm curious if you think this debate is anywhere near ending at this point.

JENNIFER LUDDEN: No, and what I heard there from the senator really is a lot of hangover lack of faith from what he mentioned, the 1986 amnesty. And back then amnesty wasn't a dirty word. President Ronald Reagan put this bill through, and what happened was the legalization part of that bill worked, the enforcement part did not. This really was a bit of a wink and a nod in this country for two decades.

INSKEEP: You mean getting tough on employers and so forth.

LUDDEN: The workplace enforcement wasn't workable, according to businesses. And the government did not really enforce the law. There hasn't been the rule of law in immigration law for two decades. And you can hear people are still very cynical that whatever you put in this bill today, it will actually be carried out.

INSKEEP: So this debate does on at least until June in the U.S. Senate, then you have the House and who knows what after that. What's happening around the country while this debate goes on in Washington?

LUDDEN: You have states and localities trying to do what they can in the absence of a real federal overhaul here. Just yesterday in Farmers Branch, Texas, we had another lawsuit against a local anti-illegal immigration ordinance. The town, the first place in the country that had a popular vote and overwhelmingly voted to fine landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. And now rights groups have stepped in and that law is on hold while these all goes to the court system.

INSKEEP: Okay. We'll continue following that. NPR's Jennifer Ludden, thank very much.

LUDDEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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