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Monday, March 14, 2011 - 11:56am

Immigration Bill Passes Senate

The state House and Senate are now more in line with what they want out of immigration reform. The Senate passed its version of a hotly debated bill.

Immigration bills in both chambers require businesses with five or more workers use a federal employment eligibility database called E-verify for new hires.

The senate bill originally had exempted farmers using workers under the H2 visa program, but Senate Majority Leader Republican Chip Rogers says that created a loophole and his amendment got rid of it.

"You could potentially have company use 20 seasonal workers and may need to use the H2 program but could also have 250 full time workers who are not seasonal and that would have exempted them from E-verify program," says Rogers.

The change puts the senate bill more in line with the house bill that didn’t have the agricultural exemption.

Both senate and house immigration measures also let officers look into the citizenship status of people pulled over for other crimes.

But the senate bill goes a step further and lets authorities detain people beyond the criminal investigation if there’s “probable cause” they’re in the country illegally.

House lawmakers removed that language to withstand expected legal challenges.

The senate bill’s author Republican Jack Murphy says that part of his bill may not make it into law.

"We knew we were going to go at some point in time to a conference committee to work out the issues between the two bills and I’m looking forward to doing that," says Murphy.

Opponents of the immigration bills say they encourage racial profiling and will hurt the state’s tourism and agribusiness industries.