U.S. officials defend immigration bill

The Law Library of Congress study of immigration laws in six countries found that all but Brazil have criminal penalities for illegal entry and presence within their borders.

In four of the countries - Japan, Switzerland, Sweden and Egypt - employers can be jailed from up to three months to up to three years for hiring illegal immigrants, the AP reports.

"With all the blustery rhetoric coming from opponents about a 'harsh' and 'draconian' House bill ..., I note that five out of the six countries studied - including Mexico - make illegal entry and unlawful presence a criminal offense," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner.

The House bill written largely by Sensenbrenner makes being in the country illegally a felony. It is already a misdemeanor to enter the country illegally, and re-entering the country after being deported also is a crime.

After street protests and demonstrations last month, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., pledged that illegal immigrants would not be prosecuted as felons in a final House-Senate verions of the bill if it gets that far.

Illegal presence in the U.S. is now a civil offense.