The AP is reporting that a group of Senators who have been working together on immigration legislation have come to an agreement. The new “gang of 8” includes Democrats Charles Schumer (NY), Dick Durbin (IL), Robert Menendez (NJ) and Michael Bennet (CO), and Republicans John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Marco Rubio (FL) and Jeff Flake (AZ).
The deal will be announced on Monday afternoon in a news conference. It will apparently tackle “border security, guest workers and employer verification, as well as a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country” according to the AP report.
President Obama will be traveling to Nevada on Tuesday to push his own version of immigration legislation. It is believed that the Senate deal will coincide with terms Obama supports.
Will immigration reform be different this time? President George W. Bush tried to pass immigration reform in 2007, but could not gather enough GOP support to get the bill through the Senate. What will happen this time — will the GOP be on board? Given the need for Latino votes, the Republican members of Congress will likely have to give this bill sincere consideration.
What’s changed, honestly, is that there is a new, I think, appreciation on both sides of the aisle — including maybe more importantly on the Republican side of the aisle — that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill. I think the time is right.
~ Sen. John McCain, ABC’s This Week, Jan. 28, 2012
The AP reports that the senators will call for accomplishing four goals in this agreement:
- Creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here, contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people here on visas.
- Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university.
- Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants.
- Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn’t recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.
All that is being released on Monday is a four page memo with basic bullet points. The details are yet to be determined.
According to the AP, steps are being taken to protect the border first.
In order to satisfy the concerns of Rubio and other Republicans, the senators are calling for the completion of steps on border security and oversight of those here on visas before taking major steps forward on the path to citizenship.
Even then, those here illegally would have to qualify for a “probationary legal status” that would allow them to live and work here — but not qualify for federal benefits — before being able to apply for permanent residency. Once they are allowed to apply they would do so behind everyone else already in line for a green card within the current immigration system.
That could be a highly cumbersome process, but how to make it more workable is being left to future negotiations. The senators envision a more streamlined process toward citizenship for immigrants brought here as children by their parents, and for agricultural workers.
Conservatives who may believe that those here illegally need to return home first may not be satisfied with the outline of this legislation. However, it is important to note that this legislation will include protecting the border, and, thanks to Sen. Rubio and other Republicans, that must be accomplished first. Perhaps the Obama administration will have to actually act on protecting the border and resolve the problems we are presently experiencing. That should make all conservatives happy.
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- Immigration Reform: Lawmakers See Overhaul Of Immigration System Clearing … (huffingtonpost.com)
- Senators reach deal on immigration changes (metronews.ca)
- Obama, senators launching immigration push (newsday.com)
- Senators reach deal on immigration (utsandiego.com)
- Lawmakers see immigration overhaul this year (sfgate.com)