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SLUG: 2-324444 Congress/Iraq/Afghanistan (L)
HEADLINE: US House Approves Military Funding for Iraq and Afghanistan
INTRO: The U.S. House of Representatives (in a 368 to 58 vote) has given final approval to a bill to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure would also tighten immigration law, as VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
TEXT: The 82-billion-dollar supplemental spending bill is a compromise between separate measures passed by the House and Senate earlier this year.
Most of the funding is to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But it also includes immigration provisions not included in the original Senate bill. Those provisions would make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, would tighten asylum rules, and would authorize the completion of a fence along the California-Mexican border.
Congressman James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, helped draft the legislation.
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"The sensible reforms contained in the legislation are long overdue, and will make America safer. These provisions will hamper the ability of terrorists and criminal aliens to move freely through our society by requiring that all states require proof of lawful presence in the United States, for their drivers' licenses to be accepted as identification for federal purposes, such as boarding a commercial airplane, entering a federal building or nuclear power plant.
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/// OPT /// Under a separate provision, states would be allowed to issue driver's licenses to undocumented workers, but those licenses would be clearly labeled as not valid for federal purposes. /// END OPT ///
Another provision would give immigration judges more leeway in deciding whether an alien's claim of asylum is credible.
Opponents argued the provisions would be better considered as part of a comprehensive immigration reform effort. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California is the top Democrat in the House:
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" These provisions will make asylum harder to obtain for those seeking a haven from persecution, place a huge unfunded responsibility on the states to verify information used to support drivers license applications."
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The overall bill also includes funds (907 million dollars) to aid victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami last December and (592 million dollars) to begin construction of a U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. It also includes (200 million dollars in) economic aid to the Palestinian Authority, and (60 million dollars in) political and economic assistance to Ukraine.
The Senate is expected to pass the measure when it returns from Spring recess next week. The legislation would then go to President Bush for his signature. (SIGNED)
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