The US Senate passed landmark immigration reform legislation yesterday that would offer a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people residing in the country illegally and tighten security on the Mexican border.

The upper chamber of Congress approved the measure 68-32.

US President Barack Obama has made immigration reform a goal of his second term, and a bipartisan group of eight senators has spent months crafting the legislation, which would be the first major overhaul of the US immigration system in decades.

The measure sets forth a process for illegal immigrants to gain legal status and eventually citizenship after a 13-year waiting period and the payment of back taxes and fees.

The bill had been amended to significantly revamp security along the US border with Mexico, which was seen as key to securing support for the measure from conservative Republicans concerned about border security.

Lawmakers hope strong support for the measure in the Senate will send a signal to the House of Representatives, which must pass the bill before it can become law and where immigration reform faces tougher opposition. The opposition Republicans hold a majority in the lower chamber.

Opposition Republicans, who hold 46 seats in the 100-member Senate, joined the Democratic majority in supporting the measure.

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