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Democratic lawmakers introduce immigration reform bill

[JURIST] An assembly of Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday submitted [press release] an immigration reform bill in the US House of Representatives [official website] that would give undocumented immigrants an easier path to seek legal status in the country. The proposed legislation, which is titled the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP) [bill summary, PDF], was introduced by representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) [official websites], and would require an undocumented immigrant to register with the federal government, pay a $500 fine, and learn English in order to receive a six-year visa that could eventually turn into a green card. The applicant would also have to pass a criminal background check and various other provisions. The bill would also add stiffer penalties for employers that hire undocumented workers, and would provide additional rules for foreign investors and those that seek to hire foreign workers.

The proposed legislation follows the Obama administration's announcement [JURIST report] that it would seek immigration reform early next year. Last month, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] said that the proposed reform legislation would be a "three-legged stool" that combines effective and fair enforcement, an improved process for legal immigration, and a "firm but fair way" to deal with illegal immigrants who are already in the US. The proposed bill is also the first attempt at immigration reform since the failed [JURIST report] Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill [S 1639 materials] in 2007. At that time, detractors called the bill too lenient on illegal immigrants and said that by granting legal status to illegal aliens, the US was granting "amnesty."

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