Mexican immigrants walk through the Sonoran Desert after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border
Source: Michael Barone, "Shrinking Problem: Illegal Immigration from Mexico," www.washingtonexaminer.com, Apr. 24, 2012
A group of senators known as the "Gang of Eight" pledged on Jan. 28, 2013 to pass comprehensive illegal immigration reform, providing a potential path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people currently residing in the United States illegally. One day later, President Obama released an outline of a similar plan he promised to "send to Capitol Hill should the Senate process stall." The senators hope to craft and submit legislation to the Senate floor by the summer of 2013.
"We can’t go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status," said Senator John McCain (R-AZ), one of the eight senators. "We cannot forever have children who were born here, who were brought here by their parents when they were small children, to live in the shadows as well."
President Obama endorsed the Senate process during an event in Las Vegas on Jan. 29, stating "Now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform... I'm here because most Americans agree that it's time to fix a system that's been broken for way too long... [N]ow is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity."
President Obama's plan focuses on four key areas: a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, improving border security, streamlining legal immigration, and cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers. People here illegally would have to pass national security and criminal background checks, pay taxes and a fine, and learn English in order to qualify for a "provisional legal status" that would allow them to live and work in the United States before being able to apply for permanent residency (a "green card"). People with provisional legal status would not be eligible for welfare or other federal benefits. The plan also gives "US citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner."
Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) said in a statement opposing the proposed legislation, "You cannot reward people with citizenship who have broken the laws. This is a country that upholds the rule of law." Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who co-sponsored a bill in 2005 that would have classified illegal immigrant as felons, said in a statement: "Extending amnesty to those who came here illegally or overstayed their visas is dangerous waters. We are a nation of laws, and I will evaluate any proposal through that matrix."
White House, "FACT SHEET: Fixing Our Broken Immigration System So Everyone Plays by the Rules," whitehouse.gov, Jan. 29, 2013
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