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Up to 11 million illegal residents to be granted U.S. citizenship under new deal hammered out by bipartisan Senate group

  • Four Republicans and four Democrats have agreed to a plan that would step up enforcement, but also provide a 'pathway to citizenship'
  • Deal has support from conservatives and liberals in the Senate
  • Senators hope that it can pass in the Republican House and win President Obama's approval
  • A second Senate group has proposed doubling the number of visas for highly-skilled foreign workers

A gang of eight Republican and Democratic senators has hammered out an immigration reform deal that could allow 11million illegal immigrants to gain legal status and, eventually, American citizenship. 

The agreement includes strict enforcement measures like stepped up border security and visa exit tracking that must go into effect before any illegal residents are given official status. 

The plan is endorsed by conservative newcomers Marco Rubio, of Florida, and Jeff Flake, of Arizona, as well as liberal veterans Charles Schumer, of New York, and Dick Durbin, of Illinois. The senators hope that the broad range of political ideology in the group - from Tea Party darlings to established progressives - will make the plan palatable for both Republicans in the U.S. House and President Barack Obama. 

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Come together: This is the gang of eight senators, four Republicans and four Democrats, who have introduced a series of immigration reforms they hope could pass both the U.S. House and President Barack Obama's desk

Come together: This is the gang of eight senators, four Republicans and four Democrats, who have introduced a series of immigration reforms they hope could pass both the U.S. House and President Barack Obama's desk

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The U.S. - Mexico border Field State Park separates the cities of San Diego and Tijuana

A second bipartisan group in the Senate has also introduced a plan to double the number of U.S. visas for highly-skilled legal immigrants in the hopes of luring more leaders in math, science, engineering and technology to the United States.

'First of all, Americans support it, in poll after poll,' Sen Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said on 'ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos' on Sunday. 'Secondly, Latino voters expect it. Thirdly, Democrats want it. And fourth, Republicans need it.'

 

The senators are expected to formally announce the their proposals today, though details have already been leaked to the public. The deals include:

  • 'Probationary' legal status for illegal immigrants who register with the government, pass a criminal background check and pay back taxes and a fine
  • Those immigrants will be allowed to legally work in the U.S. and will have a pathway to citizenship, but are not eligible for most government benefits
  • Citizenship provisions will not take effect until border security is tightened and the U.S. installs effective tracking to ensure foreign visitors do not overstay their visas
  • Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university
  • Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that businesses do not hire illegal immigrants.
  • Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn't recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.
  • Loosening residency and citizenship restrictions for illegal immigrants who entered the country when they were children.
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Lawmakers say immigration reform is 'set to be passed this year.' Sen. John McCain, pictured, is part of a six-member bipartisan Senate group working on the legislation

Obama promised Hispanic voters that he would make immigration reform one of his top priorities in his second term. He plans to give a major immigration policy speech in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday where he will lay out his own plan to reform the system.

However, immigration reform is also seen as a political necessity by an increasing number of Republicans.

Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election, compared with Republican Mitt Romney's 29 percent, according to exit polls.

Hispanic voters were decisive in his victories in the key battleground states of Florida, Colorado and Nevada.

Many moderate leaders of the GOP are calling for the party to shift its harsh stance on illegal immigration and allow a 'pathway to citizenship.'

'Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours,' Arizona Sen John McCain, who has long campaigned for immigration reform, told 'This Week' on Sunday.

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An Army National Guardsman looks out over the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona

Moderates Republican like McCain argue that most Hispanic voters are socially conservative and would shift their political allegiances if the GOP changes its stance on immigration.

However, the Senate deal reflects the reality that most Republicans view a 'pathway to citizenship' as an amnesty that incentives for illegal immigration.

Sen Rubio, a Cuban-American who is a rising star in the Republican party, insisted that illegal immigrants 'be required to go to the back of the line' before obtaining citizenship. He, and other conservatives, argue that immigrants who came to the country legally should have preference.

Many Republicans in the group insisted on tightening immigration controls before any before any of the citizenship rules took effect.

A group of border-state law enforcement officials and policymakers will have to certify that border security has been tightened.

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Sen. Marco Rubio said the senate is making 'significant progress'

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security must develop a better exit control system to track foreign visitors and ensure the country knows which ones have overstayed their temporary visas.

According to some studies, 40 percent of illegal immigrants arrive in the country legally, but do not leave when their visas expire.

The proposal puts more onerous citizenship restrictions on illegal immigrants than most Democrats support, however, the Senate group is hoping the tough proposal will help win over votes in the U.S. House.

The Republican-controlled House remains the greatest obstacle in Washington to passing a law that would allow a 'pathway to citizenship.'

Conservatives in Congress have scuttled numerous bills that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants, under both Obama and President George W Bush. 

Senators outline path to citizenship for 11m illegal residents 

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Comment by Boots on January 30, 2013 at 8:55pm

Good but is that for Republicans to get minority vote.

Comment by Mike Smith on January 30, 2013 at 6:18pm

I'll repeat:

smh, black people in the u.s.a. have already gone from 2nd to 3rd in population percentage... now after the asian influx you'll be in 4th... Now common sense should tell you.. if you couldn't get justice & or advantages when you were in 2nd...... (no reason for me to continue just think about it)

Of coarse he got the latino & asian vote, they're in-fluxing to replace your black ass, as they move up the food chain you'll see conflicts between the groups, ending with asians & latinos competing for the 2nd spot.

Also, they do organize & practice group community economics & hiring, they will lock off in their own communities & make a fence with their language, food & cultures, & your black ass will be locked out of benefiting from them.. You can shop there though;) (don't worry they'll take your money)...

Will you seen an African influx?...not likely... & why is that?

Comment by Dexter on January 30, 2013 at 3:06pm
Obama & the democrats should pass immigration reform on there own without Republicans. The only reason republicans are going along with any type of reform now is because they can't win elections with old white teabaggers & white males only. In November, Obama won 71% of the Latino vote, 73% of the Asian vote 90 something percent of the Black vote, you name it & Obama won that demographic. The young vote, LBGT, Women, Labor Unions & People with half a brain.
Now the republicans are coming to the realization that instead of telling people they need to self deport, they need to work with Obama on a solution to the problem.
As far as them tying reform to beefing up border security, Obama has done more than any past president to secure the border & border crossing is @ a 40yr low.
Comment by Jemma Kissoon on January 30, 2013 at 12:37pm
After all we are all human beings living our life one day at a time passing this reform also means Illegal immigrants have the right to pay taxes which brings money to the economy illegal immigrants do the job the American don't want to do and coming from the Caribbean we value family and have respect some Americans have it easy and they are to lazy to go out there and find work meanwhile they live off the government good stamps and section 8 I say give the illegal immigrants a chance after all this is the land of opportunities.
Comment by carmen seepersaud on January 30, 2013 at 11:58am
@ sun star...if u was an immigrant with your family here would u want d government to kick u out?
Comment by Mike Smith on January 29, 2013 at 4:49pm

smh, black people in the u.s.a. have already gone from 2nd to 3rd in population percentage... now after the asian influx you'll be in 4th... Now common sense should tell you.. if you couldn't get justice & or advantages when you were in 2nd...... (no reason for me to continue just think about it)

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