Democrats such as Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu are churning out carefully calibrated statements designed to encourage the group of bipartisan senators working on the immigration issue while remaining noncommittal about their support.
That's a contrast with many of their Democratic colleagues, who have already given enthusiastic support to an immigration overhaul. The votes of the more hesitant senators, many of whom represent GOP-leaning states, will likely depend on how the legislation addresses the priorities and quirks of their own states, such as agricultural workers in North Carolina, fishermen in Alaska and skilled workers in Louisiana.
Ms. Landrieu said in an interview that she is supportive of the idea of a comprehensive overhaul, but she also wants Congress to focus on educating American workers.
"There's a lot of bipartisan support for giving access to the workforce to people from China and India with Ph.D.s," she said, referring to an expected provision in the overhaul that would give green cards to people who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science and technology. "I'd like to see a little bit more focus on helping some of our own kids get Ph.D.s." Some 7% of Louisiana residents have a graduate or professional degree, compared with 10.5% nationwide, according to Census data