FACTBOX: Details of U.S. Senate immigration reform outline
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is unveiling the broad outlines of an immigration reform proposal on Monday that they will try to push through Congress this year.
The move comes as President Barack Obama will also ratchet up pressure with a policy speech on Tuesday in Nevada on immigration – a campaign promise he made last year to Hispanics when running for re-election.
Many important details still have to be worked out before the outlines can be translated into legislation. Here are the main elements of the Senate plan:
Eight senators have been working for months to craft this plan. The Democrats are Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate who has a large Hispanic population in his state of Illinois; New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, who is of Cuban descent; Charles Schumer of New York, who, like Durbin, is a member of the Senate leadership and has a large immigrant constituency, and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet.
The Republicans are Senator John McCain, his party’s 2008 presidential candidate who has long been involved in immigration issues and is from the southwest border state of Arizona; freshman Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, a potential presidential candidate in 2016 who is making immigration reform one of his top priorities; Jeff Flake, also of Arizona, who joined the Senate this month, having previously served in the House; and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who also has been active in immigration reform but who could face a 2014 primary election challenge from the conservative wing of his party.
A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP
There are an estimated 11 million people living in the United States – many of them for decades – who arrived illegally. Most are from Mexico, Central American and South American countries.
The senators’ plan would require those here illegally to register with the federal government and pass a background check. They would have to pay a fine and back taxes to earn a “probationary legal status,” according to a document outlining the program.
Clearing these hurdles would give these illegal residents a legal status for the first time.
Those people earning the status would go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants who have applied through legal means to come to the United States. They also will have to learn English, continue to pay taxes and demonstrate a work history in the United States to apply for legal permanent residency.
Those who successfully do so would get a “green card” allowing them to live and work permanently in the United States. From there, they could apply for citizenship, like any other green card holder.
BORDER SECURITY MEASURES
Efforts to secure U.S. borders – mainly the southwestern border with Mexico – will be further enhanced. This would include increasing the number of unmanned aerial vehicles and other surveillance equipment and adding border law enforcement agents.
An entry-exit system would be completed to track whether everyone entering the United States on temporary visas via airports and seaports have left the country as required by law.
A commission of governors and other public officials and citizens living along the southwestern border would be created to monitor progress toward securing that border and make recommendations.
YOUNG ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
Last summer, Obama gave a temporary reprieve from deportation to qualifying children who came to the United States with their parents.
Under the Senate proposal, this group would not be subjected to the same requirements for being put on a path to citizenship. It was not clear from the short outline exactly how this group would be treated, however.
Similarly, farm workers also would be treated differently through a new agricultural worker program.
The proposals would include means to keep and attract workers with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This would be aimed both at foreign students attending American universities where they are earning advanced degrees, and high-tech workers abroad. U.S. corporations have been lobbying for years for such a provision.
EMPLOYMENT VERIFICATION SYSTEM
Improvements would be made in holding U.S. employers accountable for knowingly hiring undocumented workers and make it harder for illegal immigrants to falsify documents to get jobs. Meanwhile, the U.S. government would provide faster, more reliable methods to confirm whether new hires are in the United States legally.