April 19, 2013 in Nation/World

Bipartisan Senate group unveils immigration plan

Proposal includes bolstered security, path to legal status
Lisa Mascaro McClatchy-Tribune
Associated Press photo

From left, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., John McCain, R-Ariz., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and others hold a news conference Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

Border security

A look at border security provisions in the immigration overhaul bill:

• The bill sets goals of surveillance of 100 percent of the border with Mexico, and catching or turning back 90 percent of would-be crossers.

• Within six months of enactment of the bill, the Homeland Security Department must develop a border security plan to achieve those goals, including the use of drones, additional agents and other approaches.

• If the goals of 90 percent effectiveness rate and continuous surveillance on the border are not met within five years, a Southern Border Security Commission would be established with border-state governors and others to determine how to achieve them.

• Before anyone in the U.S. illegally can get a new provisional legal status, the border security and border fencing plans must be in place. Before they can get permanent resident green cards, the plans must be substantially completed. And a mandatory system must be in place for employers to check workers’ legal status.

• About 3,500 new customs agents would be funded nationally.

• The National Guard would be deployed to the border to build fencing and checkpoints.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Moments before a group of eight senators announced its bipartisan plan to overhaul immigration law, a smaller group launched the Republican opposition.

Led by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the Republican push-back emerged as a muted affair. Only one other senator joined the event.

That is a stark contrast to the heated Republican rhetoric in 2007 after the last attempt to reach a deal on a comprehensive immigration bill, before the party’s leaders made a strategic decision after the November election to embrace an issue that is a priority among the growing Latino electorate.

The proposal presented Thursday would gird the Southern border with a double-layer fence and aerial drones, and create a guest-worker program for farm laborers, gardeners, housekeepers and others with similar low-skill jobs. Employers would be required to verify the legal status of all workers.

In return, there would be a 13-year path to legal status, including citizenship, for 11 million people who entered the United States illegally or overstayed visas. They would have to pay fees, taxes and a $2,000 fine.

Appearing with the eight senators – four from each party – was an unlikely alliance: a Chamber of Commerce executive, immigration advocates, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and religious leaders allied with the Republican Party and the left.

“This is why we know we will succeed,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a leader of the bipartisan efforts.

Republican leaders, sobered by Latino voters’ stinging rebuke in November, have come around to immigration reform because they know the party must reach beyond its base of mostly white voters, many in the party’s Southern stronghold.

Sessions and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said the immigration proposal is nothing short of an immediate amnesty for those who have broken the law.

“Like in 2007, the special interests were brought in – they’ve been engaged behind closed doors to help write the bill,” Sessions said. “Like 2007, this bill is amnesty before enforcement.”

The bill faces its first committee hearing today.

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