A group of eight Democratic and Republicans senators, including Floridas Marco Rubio, will officially release a wide-ranging immigration plan Monday that could give a pathway to citizenship, tighten border security and increase guest-worker permits.
The five-page plan from the bipartisan Gang of Eight contains most of the key concepts Rubio has presented to conservative media figures over the past month. The senators, still working on the specifics, want to draft legislation by March.
Most controversially, the proposal would give a pathway to residency and even citizenship to many of the estimated 11 million immigrants unlawfully in the United States.
While some conservatives call it amnesty, Rubio says its not because the immigrants would have to pay fines, back taxes and undergo a criminal background check a similar proposal made by President Barack Obama in May 2011.
We cant round up millions of people and deport them, Rubio wrote Sunday in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the home paper of Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid.
But we also cant fix our broken immigration system if we provide incentives for people to come here illegally precisely the signal a blanket amnesty would send, Rubio wrote.
Those undocumented immigrants granted legal residency wouldnt have access to welfare at first; nor would they be eligible for citizenship until 1) those who legally applied before them get their citizenship and 2) the borders are verified as secure.
Conservative commentator Mickey Kaus bashed the "Rubio bill" on Twitter as a "con."
"Con at heart of Rubio bill-Undocumented are legalized immediately! Not going to be kicked out if enforcements degraded," Kaus wrote.
The proposal also seeks to give special consideration to farm laborers, high-tech workers and young people who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children. The latter proposal stops short of the DREAM Act for college- and military-bound undocumented immigrants.
The Gang of Eights plan rests on four "pillars:"
1. Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required.
2. Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families.
3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers.
4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nations workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.
The plan is just a framework. So many of the hard details concerning how long people would wait for citizenship, how the border is declared secure and roughly how much it would all cost will have to be worked out in the coming months.
The Senate legislation, whenever its drafted, will also spell out how the visa process would be streamlined, what new types of work permits would be available and how the government plans to stop businesses from hiring illegal immigrants.
Obama plans to speak Tuesday in Nevada about immigration and told some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last week that the issue is a top priority.