Immigration bill manages to rile both sides of aisle

Obama endorses Senate effort as critics from left, right pile on
2013-04-17T00:00:00Z Immigration bill manages to rile both sides of aisleThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

WASHINGTON - To some conservatives, it's amnesty. To some immigration advocates, it's unnecessarily punitive.

The Senate's new bipartisan immigration bill drew criticism from the right and from the left Tuesday - convincing members of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" that wrote it that they're on the right track.

"This has something for everybody to hate," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

Said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.: "No one gets everything they want."

Schumer and another leader of the effort, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., met with President Obama on Tuesday to brief him on the bill, a top second-term priority for the president.

Obama issued a statement after the meeting supporting the Senate effort and urging action.

"This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me. But it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform," Obama said. "I urge the Senate to quickly move this bill forward and, as I told Senators Schumer and McCain, I stand willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible."

The legislation would dramatically remake the U.S. immigration system, ushering in new visa programs for low- and high-skilled workers, requiring a tough new focus on border security, instituting a new requirement for all employers to check the legal status of their workers, and installing a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

The U.S. immigration system would shift from emphasizing family ties to U.S. citizens or permanent residents in determining who can come to this country, to putting a much bigger focus on their skills or employment opportunities.

People who've been deported would have the opportunity to come back to the U.S. if their spouses or children are in the country.

Senators were aiming to file the legislation Tuesday night, and were prepared to keep the Senate floor open late to accommodate that goal. But a media event to roll the bill out was delayed until later in the week after the bombings at the Boston marathon. Nonetheless, outside groups and other senators already had plenty to say.

To some on the left, the details of the path to citizenship were emerging as a concern.

• It would take 13 years, the first 10 of those in a provisional legal status during which immigrants would not have access to federal benefits.

• Immigrants would have to pay $2,000 in fines plus hundreds more in fees, and outstanding taxes.

• No one with a felony conviction or more than three misdemeanors would be eligible.

• No one who entered the country after Dec. 31, 2011, could apply.

"The proposed legislation falls short by placing unnecessary obstacles and delays in the path to citizenship and could unfairly exclude some of the 11 million aspiring Americans who are our neighbors, friends, family and fellow worshippers," said Bishop Ricardo McClin, pastor of the Church of God Restoration in Kissimmee, Fla., and a member of PICO National Network, a faith-based organizing network. "PICO will be pressing for changes to make sure that the path to citizenship is real for the families in our congregations."

The path to citizenship also is contingent on various border security "triggers" first being met, an approach Obama administration officials and others have criticized.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., defended the approach, which was sought by Republicans.

"Let me just tell you something. This was the price that Democrats had to pay to make this a bipartisan bill. And it's not too high a price," Durbin said.

On the other side, some Republicans were claiming that the bill amounted to a grant of amnesty for people in the country illegally, while opening a floodgate to immigration that could drive down wages for U.S. workers.

"The amount of immigration is going to be far more than most Americans think," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. He predicted that once the facts on the bill are known, the Senate might reject it. "Matter of fact, I don't think it's going to become law as written. It's far more monumental than people realize."

At the same time, the bill was getting plenty of support from business, labor, immigration-rights groups and others.

The bill is expected to contain expenditures of about $17 billion, mostly for border security measures including hiring 3,500 new Customs agents, but should bring in more than that in fines and other revenue.

On StarNet: Find extensive coverage of immigration issues at azstarnet.com/border

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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