A bipartisan group of eight Senators has agreed on a road map for a national immigration system overhaul this year. In a document released Monday, the group of eight recognized that the current immigration system is broken and that a comprehensive solution is needed. The parameters of future legislation would allow a "tough but fair” path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, increased border security, and an improved employer verification system.
The framework attempts to balance the Democrats’ desire for a single comprehensive bill and eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants with Republicans’ demands to strengthen border security and modernize the current entry-exit tracking system. Senator Robert Mendez of New Jersey, a Democrat, offered his explanation as to why the senators finally agreed than any legislation should include a pathway to citizenship, “First of all, Americans support it, in poll after poll. Secondly, Latino voters expect it. Thirdly, Democrats want it. And fourth, Republicans need it.”
Under the plan, immigrants here illegally would be required to register with the government. They would receive “probationary legal status” once they passed background checks and paid back taxes and fines. This status would allow them to live and work legally in the United States. They would be able to become permanent residents, but only after passing an additional background check, paying taxes, learning English and civics, and demonstrating current and past employment in the U.S. The plan emphasizes that those who came here legally and who are already waiting in line for a green card will be processed first, and that no preferential treatment will be given to those who came here illegally. The plan offers a faster pathway to citizenship for individuals who entered the U.S. as minor children and who did not knowingly choose to violate immigration laws.
The proposed framework also contains key provisions sought by America's technology and farm industries to attract workers from outside the United States. Specifically, there would be a separate and more stream-lined green card process for agricultural workers because of their role in the long-term stability of the nation’s agricultural industries. The proposal would also award a green card to immigrants who have received a PhD or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering or math from an American University.
President Obama, in a speech given in Las Vegas on Tuesday, welcomed the bipartisan proposal and noted that it was mostly consistent with his blueprint which he issued in May 2011. There are some key differences, however. Notably, Mr. Obama’s plan would not make a path to citizenship conditional upon further tightening national borders. The president’s plan would also extend immigration benefits to same-sex couples when one person is an American.