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US senators unveil immigration reform bill

A bipartisan group of US senators on Tuesday unveiled details [text] of the long-awaited immigration reform bill that would remove the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants and provide a path to citizenship. Under the legislation, an undocumented immigrant would have the opportunity to become classified as a "Registered Provisional Immigrant" on the path to legal status or citizenship [USA Today report] if he or she has maintained a physical presence in the US since December 31, 2011, passes a criminal background check and pays $500 plus any outstanding taxes. The bill also allocates approximately $3 billion to increase manpower and resources along the nation's 1,969-mile southwest border and an additional $1.5 billion to add to the 651 miles of existing fencing along that border. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Tuesday called the bill a step forward, but criticized the legislation [press release] for having too many obstacles for those who committed minor crimes or cannot afford the fines required to start the path to legal status or citizenship. Republican members of Congress have also criticized the bill for allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship before securing of the border is accomplished.

Immigration reform has been a recent focus for the US government. Earlier this month, the US Chamber of Commerce [official website] and unions reached an agreement [JURIST report] regarding the guest worker program, which would provide a pathway for undocumented immigrants to become US citizens. The bill was allowed to proceed to its final stages of drafting following this agreement. In February, the White House [official website] drafted a proposal that would allow immigrants to become legal permanent residents [JURIST report] in eight years and 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. Under this bill, 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, obtain work and leave the country for brief time periods.

4/17/13 ~ The bill [text, PDF] was released early Wednesday morning.

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