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December 19, 2014

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Immigration overhaul? GOP, Democrat senators vow action

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.. center, answers a reporter’s question as a bipartisan group of leading senators and he announce that they have reached agreement on the principles of sweeping legislation to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. From left are Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Rubio and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

Updated Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 | 3:06 p.m.

Immigration Reform

Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla, states his support for immigrants and pledges to work in favor of immigration reform to reporters as immigration reform activists protest in front of Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. Launch slideshow »

WASHINGTON — Side by side, leading Democratic and Republican senators pledged Monday to propel far-reaching immigration legislation through the Senate by summer providing a possible path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people now in the U.S. illegally.

The senators acknowledged pitfalls that have doomed such efforts in the past, but they suggested that November's elections — with Hispanics voting heavily for President Barack Obama and other Democrats — could make this time different.

Passage of the emotionally charged legislation by the Democratic-controlled Senate is far from assured, and a taller hurdle could come later in the House, which is dominated by conservative Republicans who've shown little interest in immigration overhaul. Obama is expected to lay out his own proposals on Tuesday.

Besides the citizenship provision, including new qualifications, the measure would increase border security, allow more temporary workers to stay and crack down on employers who would hire illegal immigrants. The plans are still short on detail, and all the senators conceded that months of tedious and politically treacherous negotiations lie ahead.

But with a re-elected Obama pledging his commitment, the lawmakers argued that six years after the last sustained congressional effort at an immigration overhaul came up short in the Senate, chances for approval this year are much better.

"Other bipartisan groups of senators have stood in the same spot before, trumpeting similar proposals," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "But we believe this will be the year Congress finally gets it done. The politics on this issue have been turned upside down," Schumer said, arguing that polls show more support than ever for immigration changes and political risk in opposing it.

"Elections. Elections," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens. And we realize that there are many issues on which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens, but this is a pre-eminent issue with those citizens."

Obama got 71 percent of the Latino vote in November compared to 27 percent for Republican Mitt Romney. The president travels to Las Vegas Tuesday to lay out his proposals for immigration changes that are expected to be similar to the Senate proposals in many ways.

In a five-page framework, the lawmakers set out plans for creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here, contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people in the U.S. on visas, overhauling the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain certain advanced degrees from American universities, creating an effective high-tech employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire illegal immigrants in the future and allowing more low-skill and agricultural workers.

In a sign of the challenges ahead, the proposals immediately got a cool reaction from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"This effort is too important to be written in a back room and sent to the floor with a take-it-or-leave it approach," McConnell said. "It needs to be done on a bipartisan basis and include ideas from both sides of the aisle."

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said on the Senate floor, "No one should expect members of the Senate are just going to rubber-stamp what a group has met and decided."

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., applauded the framework and said, "I will do everything in my power to get a bill across the finish line."

Pressures from outside groups from business to organized labor to immigrants themselves will be immense, even as lawmakers warily eye voters for their reaction.

Besides McCain and Schumer, the senators endorsing the new principles Monday were Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado and Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Several of them have worked for years on the issue. McCain collaborated with the late Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on the comprehensive immigration legislation pushed by then-President George W. Bush that failed in 2007.

The group claims a notable newcomer in Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential candidate whose conservative bona fides may help smooth the way for support among conservatives wary of anything that smacks of amnesty. Rubio has been working with the group while also detailing his own similar immigration proposals to selected media, getting a generally positive reaction from conservative media.

"There are 11 million human beings in this country today that are undocumented. That's not something that anyone is happy about; that's not something that anyone wanted to see happen, but that is what happened. And we have an obligation and the need to address the reality of the situation that we face," Rubio said Monday.

As the group turns to the work of writing legislation, which they hope to see come to a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, there may be most disagreement over the path to staying in the U.S. legally. 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 pass background checks and pay fines and taxes in order to qualify for a "probationary legal status" that would allow them to live and work here — and not qualify for federal benefits — before being able to apply for permanent residency, a critical step toward citizenship. 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, and for agricultural workers.

Outside groups including Latino advocacy organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and organized labor were quick to praise the emerging framework. But some also sounded notes of caution.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, questioned a proposal by the Senate group to require illegal immigrants to provide proof of employment before they can gain legal status. Trumka said it could exclude millions of workers "who cannot prove employment because they have been forced to work off the clock or have no employer by virtue of being independent contractors."

Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, questioned the process being set out for the path to citizenship. "If the details are not done correctly, the path to citizenship can take far longer than it is reasonable. There is real concern about those details," he said.

Associated Press writer Luis Alonso Lugo contributed to this report.

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  1. Kudos to Senator Marco Rubio for spearheading this effort toward sensible immigration reform.

    One wording change I would insist-on is eliminating "border SECURITY" in favor of "lock-tight border CLOSURE", except at supervised crossings.

  2. For a copy of the proposed "framework"....

    http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/po...

  3. This is not legislation, only the framework for it. What the actual bill will look like, and what amendments there will be as it moves through the process will be interesting to see.

  4. It was Reid who stripped e-Verify out of the stimulus bill, why would anyone think he would allow anything like it to be included in immigration reform?

  5. Could our employment and economy ever fully recover? What good is insisting on employer verification if we're gonna issue work permits to 15 million illegals and their children? Several decades ago we were lied to with the same story--accept the illegals and we'll secure the border. Hasn't happened yet. So SECURE THE BORDERS FIRST. Insist on employer enforcement and send the illegals home. Something about a provision that they wouldn't qualify for welfare--just TANF or ALL welfare programs including food banks, local housing assistance, LIHEA--where one anchor baby means the entire household gets free utilities leaving no funding for American seniors. So as soon as they can chuck out an anchor baby they get full welfare again. How would we enforce any of this--we don't have a database capable of tracking the VISAs let alone tracking the illegals. What would be done about I.D. theft--using a cousin's American birth certificate? Not elibile for ACA--so American taxpayers will pick up 100% of their health care including ER / UMC, vaccines, health clinics. What about the birthing houses like in the Bay area for "vacationing" pregnant Asians to give birth here and CLAIM birth-right citizenship--this has to go. What about legislation to invalidate unconstitutional Executive Orders that ignore federal law? What about those who commit crimes? What about those who drive without insurance? What about those who keep doing vehicular hit and run cause they know they'll be deported? WHO PAYS for K-12, higher ed? We just can't afford this. I'm not willing to retire into hunger and sub-standard housing so Mr. O. can do the WRONG THING for America again. Arizona's border is just 3 miles from a major highway. A 3 mile walk and they think they're home free. SECURE the border first.

  6. Will registered invaders be able to "legally" carry or own firearms?

  7. I was stopped on I-10 Eastbond way outside El Paso at a checkpoint and the border patrol asked to see my drivers license and asked if I was a US citizen. Is this legal?

    Really, if they could just fix the mess and shut down the border to all newbies...I fear this will only lead to another mad rush in because in 10 years we do it all over again.

  8. As usual, those who refuse to address the comprehensive immigration always come out barking loud - but you LOST. Yes, YOU LOST in the last election!

    Get over it.

    Comprehensive immigration reform WILL PASS. It is going to happen.

    This blind bigotry got you no where, it only set you back - makes me giggle knowing heads are exploding when bigots hear the word "comprehensive immigration reform."

  9. LEGAL immigrants must pass a HEALTH EXAM to preclude importing contagious diseases and CHRONIC CONDITIONS that would bankrupt UMC / ER's by continual use at taxpayer expense.

    What happened to the rhetoric about people who've been here for DECADES, years and years? Without a requirement that residency began, say 10 years ago, they will just keep invading claiming prior residency. What's so terrible about expelling those who just got here, last 10 years or so???

    An aside to unlvundergrad: Politicos are trying to find something barely palatable but they still have work to do to get there.

    There MUST be provisions to expel all who arrived in the last 10 years, VIOLENT, unhealthy, large families with young kids, unskilled illegals, those already collecting welfare--about half of illegals are already on the public dole.

  10. AMNESTY is not immigration reform and that's what this is.

    WHAT IS INSANITY?

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    Congress has passed 7 amnesties for illegal aliens, starting in 1986.

    1. Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 1986: A blanket amnesty for some 2.7 million illegal aliens
    2. Section 245(i) Amnesty, 1994: A temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens
    3. Section 245(i) Extension Amnesty, 1997: An extension of the rolling amnesty created in 1994
    4. Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty, 1997: An amnesty for close to one million illegal aliens from Central America
    5. Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA), 1998: An amnesty for 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti
    6. Late Amnesty, 2000: An amnesty for some illegal aliens who claim they should have been amnestied under the 1986 IRCA amnesty, an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens
    7. LIFE Act Amnesty, 2000: A reinstatement of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty, an estimated 900,000 illegal aliens.

    Help fight ANOTHER Amnesty! Support Numbersusa!

    Check out Numbersusa website: http://www.numbersusa.com

    They lobby against illegal immigration and you can also learn how to make your voice heard!

  11. Our country already has a "path to citizenship." Most of the Commenters here, including myself, have Grandparents who entered the USA legally, and became USA citizens through THAT pathway. What the hell is wrong with US career politicians, that they must pervert an established system that did work, towards propping their lifetime careers?

    Any political refugee has a LEGAL avenue for entry, residence, and can utilize the established "path to citizenship." Too many criminals have managed to circumvent a working system, and THAT is what must be addressed. Lock and secure our borders is absolutely right, as Commenters have posted. Demand all employers utilize E-Verify.

    Imprison those who blantently disregard the laws of the land. The demand must be on BOTH sides, as the AFL-CIO has uncovered the sad fact that you have those employers who hire "under the table" and of course, there are those who will risk working for them (while avoiding the path for USA citizenship and priveledge/right to work), found in, "Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, questioned a proposal by the Senate group to require illegal immigrants to provide proof of employment before they can gain legal status. Trumka said it could exclude millions of workers "who cannot prove employment because they have been forced to work off the clock or have no employer by virtue of being independent contractors."" ENFORCE E-Verify and end this vicious cycle!

    While this mess is being sorted out by our system, put any and ALL ILLEGAL persons, including their anchor children, into USA sponsored interment camps, and allow them to be productive there until they LEGALLY complete the process of legal citizenship status. This is the only way to get compliance with so large and evasive illegal population. While under these conditions: Require proof of US citizenship or legal residency for entering US schools, driver's license, use of social services, etc.; lock and secure our USA borders to send the message we mean it.

    Like another Commenter, I lived in California, and watched for decades, those masses entering our country. In my younger years, I had worked in the fields and packing houses, side by side with these folks, witnessing jobs for legal Americans disappearing due to the blind eye of our political and law enforcement system. After nearly a half a century (that statement sure dates me), these folks have nearly bankrupted our country, and progressively put the likes and standards of a third world country in its place.

    It is time to stop this madness. The USA, that we love and know, the high standards we all once subscribed to, must be preserved and protected, even if it makes some folks "uncomfortable" or "put out" because of it. Enter and live in this country LEGALLY people, and you won't have this problem.

    Hopefully, this immigration go round, is NOT more of the same failed policies of career politicians.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star