It's official. The Senate will hold its first hearing on comprehensive immigration reform next week, on April 17. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy announced the hearing, as confirmed by NBC news. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Reno will testify at the hearing.
Thus far, only broad outlines of the legislation have been released to the media. Although the news so far indicates that the bill is heavy on enforcement, the New York Times reported that the bill does not impose benchmarks that must be reached in terms of Border Security before immigrants could begin their path towards citizenship.
That path is reportedly going to be 13 to 15 years, culminating in full citizenship if certain conditions are met, such as criminal background checks and payment of applicable fees. In the meantime, immigrants may qualify to work legally in the U.S. with a provisional status.
The bill also reportedly sets aside $3 to $3.5 billion dollars for the Department of Homeland Security to achieve certain security goals within the first five years. Namely, the goal is 90 percent effective surveillance of 100 percent of the border.
The bill also imposes a mandatory employer verification system in the first five years of implementation. Also, DHS will complete a system to monitor exits from all airports and seaports to ensure visa holders do not overstay their allotted time.
Lawmakers are optimistic that this plan is a compromise between the two sides of this heated debate. The enforcement aspects are obviously attractive to Republicans, while Obama and many Democrats have demanded a pathway to citizenship.
Luis V. Gutierrez, a Democrat of Illinois, commented, "There are no acceptable excuses for failing to pass immigration reform this year."