With Test Vote Looming, Kennedy Pushes Immigration Bill

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WASHINGTON -- Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy is defending his immigration reform legislation.

The bill backed by Kennedy and President Bush would grant millions of illegal immigrants lawful status. It also would tighten border security and create new measures for weeding illegal workers off of job sites.

But Kennedy's concessions have alienated liberals who in the past have counted him as their strongest champion. A showdown test vote is scheduled Tuesday, and the Senate could pass or reject the bill by week's end.

Traditional Kennedy allies are mystified and angry at his willingness to accept Republican-backed measures. Those would subject illegal immigrants to steep fines and trips home, separate immigrants from relatives, and let new guest workers stay only briefly with little chance of citizenship.

It's a familiar spot for the 75-year-old Kennedy. His standing as a liberal firebrand during 45 years in the Senate belies a history of partnering with Republicans on major domestic agenda items.