Washington – Democratic leaders of both houses of Congress on Wednesday presented the nine principles that should guide comprehensive immigration reform they say will contribute to the economic recovery.
During a press conference in the Capitol, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus insisted that immigration reform is cannot be postponed any longer, adding that during the 113th Congress is the perfect time to bring undocumented foreign residents out of the shadows.
An overhaul of immigration law would increase the U.S. gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez said.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a long-time leader on the issue, said the next Congress offers "an historic opportunity to help immigrants."
"We can - and should - make history in this session of Congress by passing comprehensive immigration reform," he said.
The nine principles put forward Wednesday include the registration of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants; protection of immigrant families to prevent their separation; legalization of undocumented students and visas for agricultural guestworkers.
To register, undocumented people would have to provide their fingerprints, pay taxes and learn English, although those who have criminal records will be subject to deportation.
When asked by Efe about why instead of principles they did not present a bill on the matter, Menendez said that they preferred to begin in "good faith" with a bipartisan process to start the debate with "an extended hand" rather than a clenched fist.
Republicans, who have opposed anything that smacks of an amnesty, now are promoting their own plan, which does not include a path to legalization.
The defeat of Mitt Romney at the polls has forced the Republican Party to redesign its immigration stance, well aware that it lost the Hispanic vote in part because it opposed immigration reform.
On Tuesday, GOP Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona presented a bill that will permit certain undocumented students to legally remain in the United States if they enroll in a university or enlist in the Armed Forces.
That bill is a watered-down version of the DREAM Act, which was buried in the Senate in 2010.