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Senate Immigration Plan Pairs Border Control with Citizenship Path

April 16, 2013
Buttonwillow tomates Tupman 7 09 030
A worker pauses during summer's tomato harvest in Central California. (Photo: Catherine Merlo, Farm Journal Media)  

Schumer: "This is going to be a long, hard road," yet "we’re off to a good start."

April 16 (Bloomberg) -- Undocumented immigrants who pay at least $2,000 in fines and meet other criteria could become permanent U.S. residents and apply for citizenship after more than a decade if border security also is enhanced under a bipartisan Senate proposal.

President Barack Obama plans to meet today with Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona to discuss immigration, according to a White House official and a Senate aide. McCain and Schumer are part of a bipartisan group of senators releasing the plan today.

The measure, which seeks to balance a citizenship path that immigration advocates and many Democrats support with border security Republicans are demanding, is the product of months of closed-door negotiations among four Republican and four Democratic senators seeking the broadest rewrite of U.S. immigration law in almost three decades.

"This is going to be a long, hard road," Schumer said yesterday in an interview. "We’ve got a lot more travails to go through," he said, yet "we’re off to a good start."

Mustering the 60 votes needed to pass the plan in the Senate will be difficult, though Republican opposition to a citizenship path has waned since the November election, when President Barack Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic votes cast.

House Republicans

An immigration-law rewrite faces longer odds in the Republican-controlled House, where pockets of strong opposition remain. Since the last major immigration proposal was passed in 1986, lawmakers have tried -- and failed -- several times to revamp U.S. immigration policy, most recently in 2007.

The senators, who planned to formally unveil the proposal today, decided to delay a news conference at least until tomorrow after bombings yesterday near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Still they are making the details public today.

The senators’ plan allows immigrants who entered the country illegally before Dec. 31, 2011, pass a criminal background check and pay back taxes and a fine to apply for a provisional status. After 10 years and more fines, people with provisional status would be eligible to apply for a green card if they’ve learned English and maintained regular employment in the U.S., according to a 17-page summary of the proposal.

‘Not Amnesty’

In a round of Sunday talk show appearances April 14, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican member of the group, sought to differentiate the proposal from the 1986 rewrite, which made 3 million undocumented workers eligible for legal status. Rubio said the citizenship path the group is proposing will be a more difficult route than regular legal channels.

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