CaribWorldNews, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. April 30, 2010: Less than a week after the controversial Arizona immigration plan became law and as thousands gear up to rally across the country for immigration reform tomorrow, Senate Democrats have finally put the spotlight squarely back on the hot button issue by unveiling what they called the `framework` of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and some 43 other Democrats on Thursday unveiled a plan that they say will allow some 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to be able to obtain a work permit and travel documents and eventually, a path to citizenship in the U.S.
The 26-page draft plan of the Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform (REPAIR) proposal also calls for tough controls on the hiring of unauthorized immigrants that will make use of a new biometric Social Security card as part of an electronic verification system.
Under this proposal the millions of undocumented persons living in this country will be required to come forward, register their status and be screened and fingerprinted. They can then apply for an interim legal status which will grant them the ability to work in the United States and travel abroad.
Eight years after the law is enacted, when backlogs are cleared in employment and family visa categories, they will be eligible to apply to adjust status to lawful permanent resident. They will be required to pay fines, taxes and civil penalties, learn English, and fulfill other rigorous requirements. And it recommends `concrete benchmarks` to secure the border before granting illegal immigrants the opportunity to gain legal status. Those benchmarks include increasing the number of border patrol officers and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, increasing the number of personnel available to inspect for drugs and contraband, and improving technology used to assist ICE agents.
As furor and threats of boycotts of Arizona companies grow in wake of the state`s law to crackdown on illegal immigration by essentially turning police officers into immigration agents, Democrats said the issue must be addressed now.
Senator Reid, who is facing a tough election in Nevada, said the `framework` of the plan is based on months of negotiations that involved New York Senator Charles Schumer and and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.
However, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who was also in those talks with Schumer, is not among those signing off on the plan, saying instead the proposal needs more work before it can become a bill.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association yesterday said it is encouraged by the proposal.
`We hope this proposal which contains ideas from both political parties also inspires bipartisan partnership in Congress to continue to work towards a comprehensive immigration bill. This proposal requires undocumented immigrants to register with the government and get right with the law. It includes tough enforcement at the border and in our workplaces and creates a visa system that protects labor rights and meets the economic needs of our future,` said Bernie Wolfsdorf, President of AILA. `Its time for both Republicans and Democrats to join together and show they have the will to fix our broken immigration system once and for all. It`s time to put smart policy ahead of partisan politics.`