Obama, Senators Push for Bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform
On January 28, 2013, a group of senators announced a bipartisan plan for comprehensive immigration reform, signaling the first ideological shift in the immigration debate in several years.
In a brief memo, Senators Schumer, McCain, Durbin, Graham, Menendez and Rubio outlined four legislative pillars that would serve as the foundation for reform:
- Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing U.S. borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
- Reform the legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
- Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and
- Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve the nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.
Key features of the proposed reform include increased technology for border protection, using unmanned aerial vehicles and other surveillance equipment. Undocumented immigrants will be required to register with the government, pass background checks, pay fines and any back taxes owed, and will be placed at the back of the line for any permanent immigration benefits. As part of the process, individuals will receive probationary legal status, which will allow them to work and live legally in the United States. Those with serious criminal backgrounds, however, will be subject to immediate removal from the country. A separate pathway has been proposed for agricultural workers and for individuals who arrived as young children with their families. These proposed features will serve as a springboard for political discussion in the Senate.
This bipartisan push for immigration reform comes largely on the heels
of the recent presidential election, where Latino voters favored Obama
by an estimated 71%. Moreover, American support for reform is at an all-time
high, with recent polls ranging from 51% to 66% in favor of a pathway
to citizenship for illegal immigrants. In a press conference on January
29, 2013, President Obama stated that he supported the senators’
plan but will advance his own administration’s legislation if the
proposed plan is unsuccessful.
Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform