WASHINGTON, June 4 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday immigration reform is one of his top three priorities after healthcare and global warming.
He said any reform must combine securing the borders with a "meaningful" guest-worker program and giving undocumented aliens now in the country a way to become citizens, The Hill reported. Reid talked to reporters after meeting with Hispanic leaders on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.
Reform is "going to happen this session, but I want it this year, if at all possible," Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said.
President George W. Bush's effort at immigration reform ran into overwhelming opposition from his own party. Democrats have not previously mentioned it as a major priority.
Reid said immigrants who entered the country illegally should be behind legal immigrants in consideration for citizenship. But he suggested those who have been law-abiding otherwise should be allowed to remain without fear of arrest.
"I believe that what you need to do is have penalties and fines," he said. "I think they have to learn English, stay out of trouble, pay their taxes and then they don't go to the head of the line, they go to the back of the line."