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White House immigration reform draft would create new path to citizenship: report

A White House [official website] draft immigration reform [JURIST backgrounder] proposal would allow immigrants to become legal permanent residents in eight years, USA Today reported [text] on Saturday. The plan reportedly would also increase security funding, require business owners to check the immigration status of new hires within four years, and create a new "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa program. If approved for the new visa, immigrants could also apply for the same status for spouses and children who live outside the US. Approved immigrants would be allowed to reside legally in the US for four years, to obtain work and to leave the country for brief time periods. They would also be given a new identification demonstrating their legal status and could apply for legal permanent residence within eight years, which would further allow them to apply for citizenship. Immigrants with certain criminal offenses could be disqualified from the program. Senator Marco Rubio [official website] criticized [text] the draft and stated that it would be "dead on arrival" if it were actually proposed before Congress. President Barack Obama's Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough [official profile], confirmed [NYT report] that the administration privately drafted an immigration bill in the event that Congress ultimately fails to agree on their own version, but said the White House is continuing to work with a bipartisan group of senators to draft reform legislation. The White House has declined to confirm USA Today's report of the details of the plan.

Immigration reform has been a recent focus for the US government. In January a bipartisan group of eight senators, including Rubio, released [JURIST report] a framework [text, PDF] of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that they plan to introduce by March. The framework focuses on four "pillars" that the legislation will include: creating a path to citizenship for current unauthorized immigrants, contingent upon securing the borders; reforming the immigration system to ease the way for immigrants who will bolster the US economy or are a part of an existing US family and have been waiting for citizenship; creating a new employment verification system to check immigration status; and allowing immigrants to legally immigrate to the US for low-skilled labor, only if it is available and American workers have refused the work. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated [press release] that "[T]he President welcomes the efforts by the bipartisan group in the Senate to put forward principles on the need for comprehensive immigration reform—principles that mirror the President's blueprint."

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