A bipartisan group of leading Democratic and Republican senators stood side by side Monday, vowing to take on the often heated issue of comprehensive immigration reform.Their plan is to push a far-reaching proposal which, if successful, would provide a possible path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. — with conditions.
The bipartisan “Gang of Eight” unveiling proposals is made up of four Democrats and four Republicans, and includes Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
President Barack Obama is expected to offer his own set of proposals on Tuesday, but the White House signaled on Monday that it “mirrors” Obama’s vision.
Here’s a breakdown of what the Senators are proposing:
1. Strengthen the border and offer a path to citizenship
- First, increase border security to include more surveillance equipment, unmanned aerial drones, and border agents.
- Require completion of an entry-exit system to track whether people on temporary visas have left when they were supposed to.
- Allow illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. to register with the government, undergo background checks, and pay fines and back taxes in order to earn “probationary legal status.”
- Form a commission of lawmakers and community leaders from near the Southwest border to offer further recommendations after initial border security measures have been completed.
- Once border security is enhanced, immigrants on “probationary legal status” will be allowed to apply for permanent legal status, behind other immigrants already in the system.
- Farm workers and people brought to the U.S. as children would be allowed a quicker path to citizenship.
2. Make improvements to the legal immigration system
- Reduce the backlog in family and employment visas.
- Award green cards to immigrants who obtain highly-valued science, technology, engineering, or maths (STEM) degrees from American universities.
3. Strengthen the verification system for employers
- Create an electronic system requiring potential workers to demonstrate their legal status and identity.
- Enforce serious fines and criminal penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
4. Allow new immigrant workers to enter the U.S. workforce without displacing Americans
- If an employer can demonstrate they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American worker, they may be allowed to hire an immigrant to fill the position.
- Create an agricultural worker program that meets the needs of the agriculture industry when American workers are not available.
- Allow more lower-skilled immigrants to enter the country when the economy is creating jobs, and fewer when it is not.
- Workers who have succeeded in their workplace and contributed to their communities over the years will be permitted to earn green cards.
The group introduced these four legislative pillars in a four-page bipartisan framework. The group hopes to draft legislation by March.
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