According to CBS News, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives is approaching a deal on immigration reform that would tighten border security, crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers, and extend a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants. This is positive news for supporters of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), since the fiercest opposition to any reform has largely been perceived to come from the House.
On the other hand, the Senate, which has generally been more pro-active in working on an immigration reform bill, continues to make progress. Also according to CBS News, a congressional aide working in the Senate says that, under the Senate plan, undocumented immigrants wanting a work permit that would legalize their status would first have to come forward, register with the government and pass a criminal background check. While they would pay a processing fee of around $500, it's possible they would not have to pay a fine until they renew their work permit after several years. That fine would be at least $1,000. Likely after 10 years, the immigrant would be eligible to apply for a green card if they would like. Negotiators are still discussing whether there would be a fine at this stage. If the immigrant receives that green card, they would then be eligible to apply for citizenship.
The Senate is expected to act first, releasing its bill as early as next week. A House lawmaker involved in the process said the lower chamber's bill could arrive within the next week or two.
A crucial difference between the Senate's approach and the House's likely approach: the more conservative House envisions a longer path to citizenship than that sought by the Senate or White House. Two House aides with knowledge of the negotiations told the Associated Press that the bill offers several solutions to undocumented residents. Those brought to the country as young children could trek an expedited path to citizenship, and agricultural workers would also be eligible for a separate path to citizenship. The millions of other undocumented immigrants in America would be forced to pay a fine and back taxes and get a criminal background check to qualify for a renewable work permit. After 10 years, they could apply for a green card; after five years, under current law, green card holders could apply for citizenship. That span - 15 years - is two years longer than the path envisioned by the Senate, which has drafted a bill containing a 13-year path to citizenship. Legislation drawn up by the White House as a fallback plan in case congressional negotiations stall also contains a 13-year path to citizenship.
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