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Senate leaders announce immigration reform bill compromise

[JURIST] US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) [official website], Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] and eleven other senators announced Thursday that party leaders have hammered out a compromise immigration reform bill [PDF summary; press conference transcript] that both sides hope to submit for a floor vote before Friday. While all the details are yet unfinished, the bill in its basic form will divide the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the US [JURIST report] into three groups depending on how long they have been living and working in the US:

  • Those in the country for more than five years may file for legal status without leaving the country if they meet eight criteria, including proficiency in English, an up-to-date federal and state tax history dating back to their first year in the US, and having worked for at least three of the five years.

  • Those in the country for a period of two and five years must leave the country, where they may apply for a temporary worker visa; their applications will be given priority over all other green card applicants.

  • Those in the country for less than two years must leave the country, but they may apply for a temporary worker visa at that time.
The compromise is a combination of a solution recently proposed by GOP hardliners [JURIST report] and the so-called Kennedy-McCain immigration plan [Kennedy fact sheet and floor statement] that effectively precludes a bill based on the Kennedy-McCain plan which was endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee [JURIST report] last week.

Senate leaders are scrambling to hammer out an acceptable bill text before Friday, as the following two-week Easter recess is considered the final date for major legislation to be considered this term. The Washington Post has more.

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