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Senate plan would offer path to US citizenship -- after 13 years

Both hopes and political pressure are high for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year, but there are no guarantees about what that reform will ultimately entail. It's not even clear that any bill can make it through the byzantine lawmaking process in the face of committed opposition in the House of Representatives. That said, the proposal just passed by the Senate and currently under consideration by the House offers some encouraging signs. It even includes a path for unauthorized immigrants to obtain U.S. citizenship -- although that path could be at least 13 years long.

The Senate bill seeks to accomplish a number of goals. Most are intended to change immigration law so it more accurately reflects U.S. hiring needs and offers a realistic chance for immigrants to come to here legally within a reasonable time period. Whether U.S. employers need engineers, medical workers or farm workers, the system would ideally be able to accommodate immigration to meet those needs.

This is a positive development, because the bill does not attempt to dramatically decrease immigration, as some had feared. Even more positive, most unauthorized immigrants currently living and working in the U.S. would be given legal status in some form as they apply for green cards or U.S. citizenship. The number of employment-based visas for highly-skilled workers would double, and those for lower skilled workers would also increase, although not as dramatically. Temporary worker visas would also be created for nonimmigrant seasonal workers.

At the same time, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services would be tasked with further securing the border, tracking people who overstay their visas, and cracking down on employers who hire people without authorization to work.

The path to citizenship for people already living in the U.S. is long and difficult. It is estimated to take 13 years, along with payment of certain penalties, before an application for citizenship could even be begun. This is, however, an attempt to accommodate House critics who starkly oppose any path to citizenship at all.

Despite the disappointing news that family-based immigration won’t be prioritized under the Senate plan, the overall sense among immigration advocates is that the bill would make some important and positive changes to U.S. immigration law. House Republicans are scheduled to hold closed-door meetings on the subject soon. Speaker John Boehner, however, has pledged not to bring any immigration reform proposal before the House unless it has the support of at least half of the representatives.

Source: Fox News Latino, "America’s Landscape Will Shift With Immigration Bill," July 9, 2013

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