A bipartisan group of senators announced that they have developed a framework for comprehensive immigration reform. The eight senators will unveil their blueprint Monday, and Obama will also focus a speech Tuesday on the issue.
In recent years, immigration reform has been a topic on which Democrats and Republicans struggled to see eye to eye on, especially in an increasingly partisan Washington. But the plan, proposed by Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Jeff Flake of Arizona, may actually have a chance of passing.
The plan will produce a "tough but fair path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants already in the United States and reform the legal immigration system to encourage economic development, including giving foreign math and science graduates green cards. Those undocumented immigrants without criminal records will have to pay a fine and back taxes, and will then be placed at the end of the green card waiting list. They must also pass another background check, learn English and American civics, and show they have an employment history.
Those brought to the United States as minors will go through a different process to citizenship, as will agricultural workers. Companies will be able to hire immigrant workers for positions they prove are impossible to fill with American workers.
McCain pushed a bipartisan immigration reform bill in 2007 with late Democratic senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, but failed to gain enough support in his own party to ensure its passage. The Arizona Republican said Sunday his party now realizes immigration is no longer an issue the country can ignore:
What's changed is—honestly, is that there is a new, I think, appreciation on both sides of the aisle—including maybe more importantly on the Republican side of the aisle—that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
McCain said the Republican Party has realized, after the 2012 election, it must address immigration if it hopes to gain the Latino vote:
Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours, for a variety of reasons, and we've got to understand that … [w]e can't go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status.
House Republicans are likely to be the most resistant to the plan, but its support from Rubio may help convince other conservative lawmakers it has merit. Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin two weeks ago endorsed Rubio’s individual proposal, saying, "Senator Ruiob is exactly right on the need to fix our broken immigration system."
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