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Immigration proposal couples border security with legalization

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Susan Ferrechio

Senators who are taking the lead on immigration reform will head to the White House Tuesday to meet with President Obama about a bipartisan plan that will provide legal status and a path to citizenship for many of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants while at the same time boosting border security.

A 17-page draft of the measure obtained by The Washington Examiner outlines a multistep proposal to make it much harder for people to enter the United States illegally, including construction of a double- or triple-layer fence along some southern portions of the border.

Billions of federal dollars would be provided for additional Customs officials and equipment needed to boost border security and the nation would establish an electronic verification system for employers to make it harder to hire illegals. The nation would have to meet a set of goals for improving border security and if it does not, a commission would be created to make changes.

The draft, which was presented on Monday to a group of Republican senators including Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, and Charles Grassley, of Iowa, would allow illegal immigrants who arrived before 2012 and who have not committed a felony to apply for legal status after paying a $500 fine. They would eventually be able to earn a green card and citizenship.

The proposal calls for raising the cap on visas for skilled workers to as high as 180,000 from the current 65,000 and it would create a new visa program for lower-skilled workers that would allow in as many as 185,000 workers in the first four years.

Farm workers who are in the country illegally would be able to obtain legal status under the proposal by paying back taxes and a $400 fine. A guest worker visa program for farm workers would be created, according to the draft.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to hold the first hearing on the proposal on Friday, and a second hearing on Monday. But it is already drawing both praise and criticism from lawmakers, with some warning that the proposal appears to be on a rushed path through the Senate after months of behind-closed-doors meetings to draft it.

“The gang has met privately for months, in close consultation with the special interests, to draft this legislation,” said Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary panel. “Is the public not entitled to have at least as long to review it before their representatives are asked to vote on it?”

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Susan Ferrechio

Chief Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner