WASHINGTON, May 26 (AFP): The US Senate adopted Thursday sweeping reforms of immigration law that would allow millions of undocumented workers to seek legal status in the United States.
The bill passed 62-36 despite deep divisions within the majority Republican Party and among Americans.
The Senate bill has the backing of Republican President George W Bush and bipartisan support of Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy.
However, its final adoption is not guaranteed, as it differs sharply from a tougher bill passed in the lower House of Representatives, and the two must be reconciled.
The Senate bill would create 200,000 temporary work visas for foreigners who take low-skill jobs here, and double the number of US Border Patrol agents on the border with Mexico.
Most controversial is a provision that would allow many of the estimated 11.5 million foreign workers here illegally, many of them Mexican, to gain legal status.
The bill also includes funding to build a 600 kilometre (370 miles) wall along the Mexican border to block illegal entry.
The consequences of reform are so great for both countries that Mexican President Vicente Fox is on a three-day visit to the United States to discuss immigration and labour with US business and political leaders.