WASHINGTON -- The Senate postponed action on a landmark immigration reform bill in the face of a looming filibuster, but a key sponsor says President Reagan will have 'pen in hand' to sign it once work is completed.
The Senate took up the compromise measure Thursday but laid it aside when a filibuster appeared likely. The chamber was expected to resume consideration of the bill today.
Sen. Alan Simpson, assistant Republican leader and a chief sponsor of the measure, filed a petition calling for a cloture vote to shut off debate if necessary.
Simpson, R-Wyo., said Thursday after a meeting with Reagan that he was certain the president will sign the bill.
'I'm sure he's going to be there with pen in hand if we finish work in the Senate,' he said.
The legislation is a compromise between bills the Senate passed 60-30 more than a year ago and one the House passed 230-166 last week after twice refusing to take it up.
The House approved the compromise Thursday by a 238-173 vote.
The bill would grant amnesty to illegal aliens who began living in the United States illegally before 1982 and would impose civil and criminal penalties on employers who knowingly hire undocumented aliens.
It includes a controversial provision, engineered by Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to appease western growers who are largely dependent on illegal aliens to harvest their crops.
The provision would confer temporary legal status on aliens who worked in agriculture for 90 days in each of the past three years or in a one year period ending May 1, 1986.
The number of illegal aliens who may gain legal status under the bill is not known, but estimates range into the millions.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that 1.8 million migrants will try to slip across the border this year and that about one out of three may succeed. The bill further seeks to stem that flow of illegal aliens into the United States by strengthening the U.S. Border Patrol.
Hispanic members of the House vehemently opposed the employer sanctions, arguing they would discriminate against Hispanics and other foreign job applicants -- even if they are citizens.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., echoed that argument, saying the had decided to vote against the bill because sanctions would hurt 'millions of law-abiding, hardworking American citizens of Hispanic descent.'
'The resort to employer sanctions is a shameful retreat from America's commitment to civil rights and our struggle against discrimination,' he said.
The compromise would prohibit discrimination against either citizens or legal aliens on the basis of race, national origin or alien status and calls for the creation of a special counsel in the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute such cases.
It also includes a Senate amendment that would end employer sanctions after three years if study by the General Accounting Office, an arm of Congress, found theyhad resulted in discrimination.
Employers would be required to verify the legal status of all new employees by examining Social Security cards and other documents, but the bill specifically bars the creation of any 'national identification card.'
A key provision of the bill authorizes $1 billion a year for four years to reimburse states for social costs growing out of the legalization program.