DAVENPORT, Iowa --- U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has filed 77 amendments to a comprehensive immigration bill that will be taken up at a Senate committee today, some of 300 proposed revisions critics say are meant to strangle the legislation.
Republicans and Grassley defended their amendments, however.
On a conference call Wednesday, Grassley said the proposed revisions are aimed at strengthening the far-reaching legislation and at educating the public about its potential effects.
"This debate should be thoughtful and thorough," Grassley told reporters on a conference call. He noted the bill is nearly 900 pages long.
The legislation was put together by eight senators, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., one of them.
It seeks to improve border security and provide a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally, along with reforming the system of issuing visas. It also would impose requirements on employers in order to stop the hiring of undocumented workers.
Grassley is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will take up the legislation. He filed more amendments than any other lawmaker.
Republicans have argued that security should be established at the border before people in the country are moved along the path toward citizenship, and at least one of Grassley's amendments deals with that concern.
Proponents of the reform package, however, say security is tighter than it's been in years, and the new measure will provide even more resources.
"Their strategy is trying to undermine (the bill) and to make it impossible for anybody to get through it," said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America's Voice, which favors the bill.
The legislation establishes a series of triggers for people in the country illegally to gain citizenship after meeting certain requirements, like paying fines and back taxes.
It would require the administration to establish in six months a southern border fencing strategy, along with a separate southern border security strategy to stop 90 percent of illegal crossings in high risk areas.
Once the strategy is begun, people in the country illegally could apply for provisional legal status, the legislation says.
After 10 years, people in provisional status could transition to lawful permanent resident status, but only if the southern border security strategy was substantially operational.
If the 90 percent interdiction isn't achieved in five years, a commission would be set up to take further steps.
Grassley told reporters the bill doesn't achieve security but only requires plans.
He has proposed amending the bill to prevent people from going to provisional status until six months after the administration has proved it is stopping 90 percent of illegal border crossings at high risk areas.
"We want to make sure the border's secure, then six months after that the legalization takes place," he said.
Durbin said the authors of the compromise bill, which include four Democrats and four Republicans, bent over backward to accommodate border security concerns.
"You kind of reach a point where you have to question their commitment to immigration reform," he said earlier this week.
The Senate is but the first step on the road to immigration reform, and the committee work will likely take days. The House also is taking up the matter, but in piecemeal fashion.
Some of Grassley's other amendments include requiring the government to begin deporting someone who doesn't qualify for provisional legal status, requiring someone seeking provisional status to disclose Social Security numbers they may have used to seek employment and requiring South Korea to lift its embargo of American beef before visas are issued to its citizens.
Not all of the amendments will be offered, but the number demonstrates how complex the debate will be. Nearly 200 of the amendments were offered by Republicans, with the rest coming from Democrats.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)