LOS ANGELES – Days before a planned march in Washington, D.C., two U.S. senators announced their framework Thursday for a bipartisan immigration bill that would increase resources for border enforcement, create a biometric Social Security card to prevent forgeries, and legalize millions of undocumented immigrants.
Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., laid out their proposal in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, saying that “the American people deserve more than empty rhetoric and impractical calls for mass deportation.” The plan also calls for creation of a program to admit temporary workers.
The announcement was immediately praised by President Barack Obama, who pledged Thursday to help translate the framework into a legislative proposal and to continue working “to forge a bipartisan consensus this year.”
As many as 50,000 faith, labor and immigrant rights advocates are expected at a rally in the nation’s capitol Sunday to pressure the White House and legislators to take action on immigration reform. In a media call Thursday, they called upon the senators to introduce a bill in coming weeks and begin deliberations in April.
“Immigration reform cannot wait another year, another term,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “The time is now and they are marching in D.C. to make that clear.”
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said Thursday that Schumer and Graham understand that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.
“The framework is an important step forward,” Noorani said. “The likelihood of immigration reform is very, very strong given this strong start.”
Previous efforts to pass immigration reform legislation failed in 2007. Now, with the economic downturn and millions of Americans out of work, opponents said it is even less likely that the public would support the legalization of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
“Allowing millions of illegal immigrants to stay and take jobs away from citizens is like giving a burglar a key to the house,” Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said in a statement.
The framework covers familiar territory – border security, interior enforcement, temporary workers and legalization. The legalization plan would require undocumented immigrants to admit they broke the law, perform community service, pay fines and back taxes and learn English. According to the plan, a bill would also give green cards to immigrants who earn a master’s or doctorate in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. university.
The unveiling of the plan follows a gathering last week between the president, both senators and advocates of reform.