Democratic Senate leaders said Thursday that they will not accept anything less than a comprehensive immigration reform plan that allows for the legalization and eventual attainment of citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
At a roundtable with Spanish-language media, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other senators involved in the negotiations for immigration reform said that they will avoid the mistakes of 2006 when an earlier reform attempt failed.
"This notion that we can have a comprehensive bill and not include a path to citizenship is unacceptable," said Sen. Dick Durbin, one of the "Gang of Eight" pushing a bipartisan reform plan.
He responded to comments from Republicans suggesting immigration reform be undertaken in stages and that the issue of citizenship be left for last.
Reid also rejected the Republican approach.
"We weren't able to do much last Congress. People were trying to do things piecemeal," the Nevada senator said. "We're not going to do anything piecemeal, that's over. We're going to do comprehensive."
Under the Gang of Eight proposal, Durbin said, the process of legalization, from the probationary period in which temporary work permits would be issued to immigrants up until the receipt of a Green Card, could take 10 years.
The proposal of the four Democrats and four Republicans demands that undocumented immigrants register with the government, submit to a review of their criminal record, if any, pay their taxes and a fine and study English and civics.
Several lawmakers in the House are preparing their own version of the overhaul, while the White House has launched a national publicity campaign supporting the reform with the help of unions, businessmen and progressive groups.
The Gang of Eight proposal also asks for an increase in border monitoring.
Senators are continuing to negotiate the details of how the required improvements in border security will be certified.
Durbin complained that even though the government spends $18 billion per year on border security, the Republicans "want more." EFE