A group of Democratic and Republican senators on Tuesday unveiled long-awaited landmark legislation to remove the threat of deportation for millions of illegal immigrants and give them an opportunity to eventually become U.S. citizens.
Under the proposal, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before December 31, 2011, and had stayed in the country continuously could apply for “provisional” legal status as soon as six months after the bill is signed by the president.
But beyond that, they would have to wait a decade or more for full citizenship which would entitle them to federal benefits, while the government works on further securing U.S. borders and enforcing the new immigration law.
The bill’s sponsors – four Democrats and four Republicans – felt such conditions were necessary to help their plan succeed where similar measures have failed, mostly because of opposition to what opponents see as “amnesty” for law-breakers.
Even with the many caveats, the proposal faces months of debate, scores of amendments and potentially significant opposition, particularly in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“It’s nothing but a starting point,” Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa told reporters on Tuesday. He is the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, the panel that will manage the immigration bill.
Two of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, were expected to meet with President Barack Obama on Tuesday to review their work and its prospects.
Indeed, much of the legislation was designed to make the bill palatable to Republicans.