Immigrants Said to Wait 15 Years for Legal Status in Plan

As Senate negotiators prepare to unveil their proposal to rewrite U.S. immigration laws, members of a House group are considering a path to citizenship of at least 15 years for many undocumented immigrants now in the U.S.

Under the House plan being discussed, undocumented immigrants would have a probationary period of two to five years and would have to wait in line behind those seeking to live in the U.S. legally, according to a congressional aide familiar with the details. The aide asked not to be identified because the plan has not been finalized.

The probationary period would include penalties, such as fines, back taxes and fees to cover the adjudication process. The immigrants would receive work permits and, after about 10 years, would be able to get a green card, according to the aide.

The group of House lawmakers has kept the details of their deliberations private and doesn’t have a date for announcing their bill, though that could be later this month. The House negotiators include Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, John Carter and Sam Johnson of Texas and Raul Labrador of Idaho, along with Democrats Zoe Lofgren and Xavier Becerra of California, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and John Yarmuth of Kentucky.

“We’ve made a promise to each other we would not go into the details until we’re ready to launch our bill, but we will have a bill and we’ll have one soon,” Representative John Carter, a Texas Republican and member of the House group, said today on MSNBC.

Waiting Period

Gutierrez at a March 19 breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor said he favors a long waiting period after undocumented immigrants register with the government before they can qualify for permanent residency, and eventual citizenship. Gutierrez, 59, predicted that he will be 75 before the first of those 11 million undocumented residents is eligible to vote as a new citizen.

The group is attempting make it easier to achieve citizenship for children brought to the U.S. by their parents, according to the aide. That’s a goal shared by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican.

Farm workers would have their own path to legal status based on the House group’s plan being discussed. The group is considering establishing two tracks: one for contract agricultural workers and one for “at-will” workers.

High-Skilled Visas

The group also is considering creating a category for high-skilled visas in the area of science, engineering, math and technology. That new category would entail 50,000 visas.

All these elements are part of drafts the group has been assembling. The final draft has not yet been presented and can be subject to change.

A bipartisan Senate group of eight lawmakers tomorrow is set to unveil the broadest rewrite of immigration policy in almost 30 years. The Senate plan would allow undocumented immigrants to remain and work in the U.S. if they meet certain requirements and apply for permanent residency -- or a green card -- after 10 years, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a member of the group, said yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

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