WASHINGTON The amnesty proposal would be contingent on first securing the nations borders, the contingent of eight senators said Monday. It hopes to have legislation drafted by March and a vote before the August recess.
The senators who signed on to a detailed statement of principles to guide the effort beat President Barack Obama to the punch, scrambling to unveil their plan a day before Obama is scheduled to outline his own proposal in Nevada, a state with a rising tide of Hispanic residents.
The high-powered group consists of the second- and third-ranked Senate Democrats, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York; 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolinian with a reputation as a maverick willing to work across party lines on tough issues; Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, both of Cuban descent; Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
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.
Here are some details:
Create a path to citizenship for the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country:
Æ First, increase border security efforts including adding unmanned drones, surveillance equipment and more border agents;
Æ Require completion of an entry-exit system to track whether people in the U.S. on temporary visas have left as required;
Æ Create a commission of lawmakers and community leaders living along the southwest border to make a recommendation about when the border security measures have been completed;
Æ While security measures are under way illegal immigrants can register with the government, pass background checks and pay fines and back taxes in order to earn probationary legal status.
Æ Once security measures are in place, immigrants on probationary legal status could apply for permanent legal status behind other immigrants already in the system.
Æ People brought to the U.S. as children, and farmworkers, would have a quicker path to citizenship.
Improve the legal immigration system:
Æ Reduce backlogs in family and employment visas;
Æ Award green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math from American universities.
Strong employment verification:
Æ Create non-forgeable electronic system for requiring pro-spective workers to demonstrate legal status and identity;
Æ Stiff fines and criminal penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
Admitting new workers:
Æ Employers could hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American and the hiring of an immigrant will not displace American workers;
Æ Create an agricultural worker program to meet the needs of the nations agriculture industry when American workers are not available;
Æ Allow more lower-skilled immigrants to come to the country when the economy is creating jobs, and fewer when it is not;
Æ Permit workers who have succeeded in the workplace and contributed to their communities over years to earn green cards.