Senate Gang of 8 close on immigration deal

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm •  Published: March 21, 2013
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The new bill would contemplate a 10-year wait for illegal immigrants already in the U.S. before they could get a green card allowing them permanent residency, senators have said. During that time they would be in a provisional legal status and would not have to return to their home countries as current law requires.

Once they got the green card, they would have to wait three years to be able to apply for citizenship, compared to the five-year wait that most green-card holders currently have to abide, outside officials say they've been told. The new three-year wait was first reported by The New York Times.

That added up to 13 years, which would put the Senate bill in line with immigration legislation drafted by President Barack Obama, which he has said he would offer only if the Gang of Eight process stalls.

There's also said to be substantial consensus among the senators on border security issues. The bill would require that the border be secured before illegal immigrants could embark on the path to citizenship and would put in place new border security criteria including a commission of border state officials to advise on the issue. The border security piece was critical to support from Republicans in the group including John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida.

The bill will be lengthy and cover numerous other thorny issues, including mandating a currently voluntary program called E-Verify that helps businesses check their workers' papers, as much as doubling visas that go to high-tech workers, and limiting family-based immigration to put a greater emphasis on skills and employment ties instead.

So far pro-immigrant groups have often been more visible in public than opponents of the bill, but that could change once it becomes public next month. A fierce backlash helped sink the last attempt at reform in 2007, and the unveiling of the bill will open volatile months of debate and votes in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor over the spring and summer, with success far from assured. The House also must act before the legislation could become law, and prospects there were cloudier still.

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Follow Erica Werner on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericawerner