WASHINGTON – A framework for proposed immigration reform could give 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship.
The framework,written by a bipartisan group of eight senators,was unveiled Monday at a press conference at the Capitol. It was revealed one day before President Barack Obama is scheduled to release his plan for immigration reform.
Marco Rubio,R-Fla.,John McCain,R-Ariz.,Charles Schumer,D-N.Y.,Dick Durban,D-Ill. and Robert Menendez,D-N.J.,presented the blueprint.
“This will be the year congress finally gets it done,” Schumer said. “The politics on this issue have been turned upside down. For the first time ever,there has been more political risk opposing immigration reform than supporting it.”
In the bipartisan framework,four specific changes would be made.
The first piece of legislation would secure the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
McCain said that to secure the border would require working with the Department of Homeland Security and increasing the amount of equipment used in surveillance. This would include enhanced training for border patrol agents and a different strategy in monitoring the entry-exit system to and from the U.S.
The second piece of legislation would improve the legal immigration system.
“The vast majority of Americans agree that we have to have a legal immigration system that works,” Rubio said. “They recognize that what we have now is not a 21st century legal immigration system,and that’s why I’m so pleased that the first principle in this effort is one to modernize so that it reflects the reality and the need of the 21st century.”
The second piece of legislation gives a green card to immigrants who have received a Ph.D. or master’s degree in science,technology,engineering or math from an American university.
The third piece of legislation in the blueprint is employment verification. The plan states “employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers must face stiff fines and criminal penalties for egregious offenses.”
The last key legislation would allow employers to hire immigrant workers if an employer can demonstrate that an American worker couldn’t be found for the job.
There were 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2011,according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
“It’s not beneficial to have these people hiding in the shadows,” McCain said.
Schumer said the undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. would be able to work toward a legal status as long as they pass a background check,otherwise they will be immediately deported. The undocumented immigrant would have to pay a fine and back taxes to receive a probationary legal status. The framework states they would have to pay taxes,learn English and civics,demonstrate a history of work in the U.S. and current employment among other requirements.
“It’s going to be hard,” Rubio said. “But it’s a fair path.”
The plan does not include immigrants known as Dreamers,or undocumented immigrants who have been working as farm workers,who will go through a different path to citizenship under the new agricultural worker program.
The senators did not offer a specific time frame for the plan or the cost of reform.
The three other senators involved in the framework were Lindsey Graham,R-S.C. and Jeff Flake,R-Ariz. and Michael Bennet,D-Colo.
Reach reporter Jasmine Aguilera at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.