Immigration Primer

Via The Los Angelas Times
By Michael Muskal, Times Staff Writer
1:36 PM PDT, April 6 2006

Top Senate leaders stood before the cameras this morning and announced
that they had reached a compromise on a proposed immigration overhaul.
With politicians across the political spectrum lavishly praising each
other, it seemed like a new milestone had been reached.

Others were less optimistic. As Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, noted today:

“We still have some obstacles.”

A vote on the Senate bill could come tonight. Here are some of the main questions and issues swirling around.

What was done?
After
days of negotiation, the leaders of both parties reached a compromise
on some key points but still have to work out details on others. The
compromise was a recognition that none of the bills pending in the
Senate could be passed.
What does the compromise call for?
It establishes three groups of undocumented immigrants, depending on the amount of time they have been in the United States.

Those here longer than five years
would not be required to return home. They would also have a chance to
become citizens if they meet a series of requirements and pay a fine.
There are more than 7 million people in this category.
What about those who are here between two and five years?
They
have to return to their home country briefly, then can re-enter as
temporary workers. Once they have the proper papers, they could begin
the process of seeking citizenship.
What of those in the U.S. less than two years?
They
would be required to leave the country. They would have to take their
place in line with other workers in their home country waiting for
permission to enter. They would receive no assurances that they will be
given permission to return.

About 40%, or 4.4 million people, have been in the U.S. five years or less.
What is to prevent them from sneaking back across the border if they are denied permission to return?
The parties have also agreed in principle to step up border enforcement, though the details have yet to be made public.

Early
on, there were provisions to toughen penalties on employers who hire
illegal workers, but it was unknown whether those provisions will be in
the final bill.

Why is this being called a compromise?
The bill tries to balance the concerns of the different players.

Democrats
and President Bush received a guest worker program, which had been
opposed by conservative Republicans. Democrats fall short of creating a
program for all undocumented workers.

Moderate
Republicans received a modified program that supplies foreign labor
needed by businesses, particularly in agriculture, construction and
tourism.

Conservative
Republicans get to limit the number of undocumented workers who will be
allowed to stay in the United States, but if the bill passes, there
will be a guest worker program that they strongly oppose.
Doesn’t a compromise mean that everyone is happy?
No.

Senate conservatives immediately attacked the compromise as too lenient and they are expected to vote against it.

However,
Democrats have 44 votes, so if they all hold together, only seven
Republicans would be needed for passage. That seems likely given the
support of such prominent Republicans as Majority Leader Bill Frist of
Tennessee and Sen. John McCain of Arizona — rivals for the GOP
presidential nomination.
So this will likely become law?
It is too soon to know.

Even
if some form of the compromise passes the Senate, the House has passed
a tougher immigration bill without a guest worker program. Speaker
Dennis Hastert has said his house is willing to compromise, but
conservatives there have taken a tougher line against a guest worker
program.

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