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Senators agree on fingerprinting to exit country

| Monday, May 20, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Senate supporters of far-reaching immigration legislation accepted minor changes in public while negotiating over more sweeping alterations in private on Monday as they drove toward expected Judiciary Committee approval by midweek.

In a long day of drafting, the panel voted to begin phasing in a requirement for foreigners to undergo fingerprinting when they leave the country. On a vote of 13-5, supporters agreed to require that procedure through any of the nation's 30 busiest airports, part of an attempt to strengthen security. Lawmakers also agreed to make an immigrant's third drunken driving conviction a deportable offense in some cases.

At the same time, officials expressed optimism that agreement was in sight in complex private talks over proposed changes to a section of the legislation relating to H-1B high-skilled worker visas. As drafted, the bill would raise the cap from 65,000 annually to 110,000, with the possibility of a rise to 180,000.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, whose state is home to a burgeoning high-tech industry, sought changes to reduce the cost and other conditions on firms that rely on highly skilled foreign labor.

He told reporters that he is prepared to support the legislation when the committee votes on final passage if there is agreement on the issues. “The way it was written, they're going to move offshore,” he said of firms seeking changes.

In general, organized labor and its allies on the committee, including Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., want tougher conditions than industry was seeking, part of an attempt to ensure that American workers are not disadvantaged by a larger influx of H-1B visa holders.

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