The nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants will be able to work legally in the United States “virtually immediately” if the reform principles laid out by a group of bipartisan senators are enacted, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a member of the group, said during a press conference Monday afternoon.
“Immediately when the bill passes, people who are here living in the shadows would get a legal right to stay here and work,” Schumer explained, “they would no longer be deported, provided they don’t have a criminal record.” The immigrants would not be eligible for any federal benefits.
Families and individuals who entered the country illegally would only earn permanent legal status, however, once new benchmarks for securing the borders are met and an entry-exit system that tracks whether persons on temporary visas leave the country, is established. According to the proposal, while the security measures are being implemented, “those who came or remained in the United States without our permission” would begin registering with the government, undergoing background checks, and paying back taxes “in order to earn probationary legal status.”
The the senators did not offer details on the specific process for border security certification or address whether a new commission tasked with monitoring the progress of protecting the border could hold up the immigrants’ path from probationary to legal status. While most of the senators involved with the proposal believe that the group of local lawmakers would only serve an advisory role in determining the security situation, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has issued a statement saying that the “commission’s recommendation will be a central component.”
“We have to work with the governors and the organizations and citizens on the border states that are the major victims of the broken borders,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) added. He also admitted that “There is no question, there has been a significant reduction in illegal crossings over the past five years.” Indeed, the United States spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement in the 2012 fiscal year, which is more than every other federal law enforcement agency combined.
Speaking to Ed Morrissey, Rubio said that the senators have not yet agreed if the commission will certify security on the border or simply advise in the certification process. “I will not be supporting any law that does not ensure that the enforcement things happen,” he added.