PHOENIX (Reuters) - For undocumented immigrants who fear arrest each day they go to work in Arizona, the passage on Thursday of a landmark U.S. Senate immigration bill has renewed hope they may one day emerge from the shadows - but that dream might be short lived given the bill's slim chances of passing the House of Representatives.
"It's incredible ... It means that I won't have to be afraid of being arrested and jailed when I go to the shop to buy food," said Guatemalan warehouseman Samuel Roldan, whose wife, Gladys, was picked up by police in Phoenix and deported to the Central American country three years ago.
A top priority for President Barack Obama, the Senate bill offers legal status to many of the 11 million undocumented foreigners in the United States, and eventually citizenship - but the leader of the House of Representatives said the measure was dead on arrival in the House.
The Senate bill is particularly welcome for unauthorized migrants in Arizona, the state bordering Mexico, which in 2010 passed a tough state immigration crackdown requiring police to question those they stop and suspected of being in the country illegally about their immigration status.
"It's a good day for us," said Mexican day laborer Carlos Quesada, as he looked for scarce construction and yard work outside a Phoenix Home Depot store in 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) heat.
"It offers us a chance to get a better job, live better ... we want to work in a good company, pay our bills and support our families," he added.
For Mexican cook and house cleaner Maria Duran, who slipped over the desert to Arizona 39 years ago, the Senate bill raised the possibility of being reunited with a daughter living in Mexico who she has not seen for 18 years.
"Can you imagine that? This is the most important thing I could ask for," she said.
'SOMETHING WASHINGTON SHOULD SOLVE'
As a softener to Republican hardliners, the Senate bill allocates an extra $46 billion over 10 years, to double the number of agents guarding the Mexico border to about 40,000.
It authorizes funds to complete 700 miles of fencing on the border, through which most unauthorized migrants enter the United States, and buy high-tech surveillance equipment to detect illegal crossings - steps that made some day laborers skeptical.
"All it is going to do is line the pockets of the coyotes even more," said day laborer Carlos Beltran of the people smugglers he paid $1,500 to bring him across the desert from Mexico a decade ago.
"The more difficult the crossing is, the more money they charge," he said with a shrug.
The legislation now goes to the Republican-led House, which plans to draft its own bill, one without the Senate's proposed pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, throwing the overhaul into jeopardy.
Some undocumented migrants nevertheless hope that Republican opponents will join forces with Democrats in the House and pass the overhaul of the country's immigration system, which is supported by 58 percent of all Americans, a May Washington Post-ABC poll showed.
"Statistics show over half of Americans currently support immigration reform," said Edder Diaz, a student who was brought to Arizona from Mexico when he was 5 years old.
"We know it's a tough issue, a moral issue nonetheless, but it is something that Washington should come together to solve," he added.
(Editing by Dina Kyriakidou and Lisa Shumaker)
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