Senate leaders from both parties on Thursday said they expect to reintroduce a controversial immigration reform bill before the Fourth of July recess.

The White House-backed bill, which would boost border security and crackdown on employers that knowingly hire undocumented workers, among other measures, was blocked by Republicans from proceeding to a vote last week.

Opponents have attacked a provision of the bill that would create a path to legal status for the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, which they say amounts to amnesty for lawbreakers.

Earlier this week, President Bush lobbied support for the bill on Capitol Hill, calling the status quo "unacceptable."

In a joint statement released Thursday, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) said they had met with key senators involved in the negotiations: "Based on that discussion, the immigration bill will return to the Senate floor after completion of the energy bill," they said.

Small-business groups have urged Congress take up the bill in order to hammer out immigration reform efforts, including a proposed employee-verification system and a temporary foreign worker program.

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