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World/National News

April 2, 2013

Immigration plan down to details

WASHINGTON — Politics still might get in the way of a final agreement on a bipartisan immigration bill.

Now that labor and business have agreed on an immigrant temporary-worker program, a bipartisan group of eight senators say they’ve cleared every major policy hurdle and are ready to introduce the most dramatic overhaul to the U.S. immigration system in decades.

But first they have to write the bill, and that’s rarely an easy task.

After weeks of speculation that an agreement was in jeopardy amid stalled talks and public bickering between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, Senate staff members are working the plan into draft legislation.

The “gang of eight” senators have worked out the major concepts, including placing the 11 million illegal immigrants now in the country on a path to citizenship, beefing up border security, establishing a nationwide system to verify the legal status of workers, punishing businesses that hire illegal immigrants, and allowing more agricultural and highly skilled immigrant workers to stay in the country.

But they still may hit several stumbling blocks, as broad concepts must be turned into specific details that can sustain legal scrutiny. A key aspect of the proposal, for example, is that the borders must be secure before newly legalized immigrants are put on a path to citizenship.

The members must come up with a system to measure border security, and whether they think the borders already are secure enough depends on what side of the aisle they sit on.

The senators also are planning to rewrite the laws to give preference to future immigrants based on potential job skills, with less emphasis on family connections. The system would award points for an immigrant’s various characteristics, and it would place greater emphasis than the system does now on the immigrant’s ability to make long-term economic contributions.

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