Key senators yesterday announced that they will introduce a broad immigration overhaul with a multistep path to citizenship for illegal aliens and a new program for foreign workers that could increase yearly legal immigration by 400,000 people.
The bill—sponsored by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat—also calls for the government to produce a border security strategy, and encourages Mexico to crack down on immigrant smugglers and take steps to control its own borders.
Sponsors said it is not an amnesty because it would require illegal aliens to pay all regular fees as well as a $1,000 fine to join a guest-worker program and, after six years, another $1,000 fine to obtain a green card signifying legal permanent residence. Green card holders eventually can apply for citizenship.
“This bill is not amnesty. This bill does not provide a free pass to anyone. This bill does not give an automatic pardon to anyone. This bill does not put those that have been illegal that are here in the United States at the front of the line,” Mr. Kennedy said.
The measure sets up two new work visas—one for those now here illegally and another for future foreign workers. The program anticipates 400,000 low-skilled, nonfarm workers the first year, but could expand. Those workers could apply for a green card after four years.
“The section on ‘border security’ consists of little more than the commissioning of a few more government reports and working groups—and the rest of the bill is dedicated to expanding taxpayer-funded health care and instant amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens who have successfully broken our laws,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus.