Immigration reform is a hot topic on capitol hill this week. Eight senators unveiled a new immigration reform plan that hinges on border security. CBS 19's Amanda Roberson has more on the proposal.
"We still have a long way to go but this bipartisan blueprint is a major breakthrough," said Sen. Charles Shumer, (D) New York, during a news briefing Tuesday.
The so-called gang of eight, four senators from each party, said the timing is right to reform immigration laws. "It's not beneficial for our country to have these people here hidden in the shadows," added Sen. John McCain, (R) Arizona. "Let's create a system to bring them forward."
The plan includes four key provisions:
- A tough but fair path to citizenship for people now in this country illegally, after steps are taken to bolster border security
- Revamping the current legal immigration system, by, among other things, attaching green cards to advanced degrees in science, math, engineering and technology
- Penalizing employers who hire undocumented workers
- Creating a guest worker program for jobs Americans are unable or unwilling to fill
"I think it is pretty vague what they've outlined but it's enough to realize they are addressing both sides of the argument," explained Ginger Young, an immigration attorney with Flowers-Davis, P.L.L.C. in Tyler.
Young said a bi-partisan plan is a long time coming and the proposal would help a major problem her clients face. "For someone going through the process to make the step, you have to leave the country. If you have been here more than a year, unlawfully either as an overstay or illegally, and you leave you can't come back for 10 years."
The proposal would get rid of that time block for qualified people. And as Young pointed out - the proposal applies to people from all countries. "While we focus on the Hispanic, and I think that was really the push to get this, you've got to realize it applies to Canadians that come across the border because they can just drive across the border and stay."
People living in the United States unlawfully won't get their citizenship over night.
The five-page proposal requires those with no criminal backgrounds to register with the government, learn English, pay a fine and all back taxes. Before any of that can happen, the proposal first calls for increased border patrol and security.
Lawmakers hope the bill will pass the Senate by late spring or summer and then it's on to the more conservative House.