In a move making good on his promise to pressure Congress into passing immigration reform "in a timely manner," President Barack Obama's White House has leaked details of his immigration bill that reveals a plan allowing undocumented immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years.
According to a report published online Saturday by USA Today, Obama's bill would create a "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. The bill includes more security funding and requires business owners to adopt a system for verifying the immigration status of new hires within four years, the newspaper said.
USA Today reported that the bill would require that immigrants pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa. Immigrants who served more than a year in prison for a criminal conviction or were convicted of three or more crimes and were sentenced to a total of 90 days in jail would not be eligible. Crimes committed in other countries that would bar immigrants from legally entering the country would also be ineligible.
Those immigrants facing deportation would be eligible to apply for the visa, the newspaper reported. Immigrants would be eligible to apply for a green card within eight years, if they learn English and U.S. history and government, and they would later be eligible to become U.S. citizens.
Last month a bipartisan group of senators announced they had agreed on the general outline of an immigration plan. For his part, Obama has said he would not submit his own legislation to Congress so long as law makers acted "in a timely manner." If they failed, he said, "I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away."
Obama's chief of staff Denis McDonough says the White House hasn't proposed "anything to Capitol Hill yet" on immigration. McDonough said on ABC's This Week Saturday "let's make sure that it doesn't have to be proposed" because the White House and Congress are able to work out a deal.
"What it says to me is we are doing exactly what we said we would do which is we will be prepared in the event that the bipartisan talks going on the hill, which by the way we are aggressively supporting," McDonough said on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday. "If those do not work out we will have option to put out there as the President said in Las Vegas."
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida says if such a measure was proposed however, it would be "dead on arrival" in Congress.
“It’s a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress," Rubio said in a press release on Sunday. "President Obama’s leaked immigration proposal is disappointing to those of us working on a serious solution. The President’s bill repeats the failures of past legislation. It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally, and does nothing to address guest workers or future flow, which serious immigration experts agree is critical to preventing future influxes of illegal immigrants.
“Much like the President’s self-described ‘stop gap’ Deferred Action measure last year, this legislation is half-baked and seriously flawed," Rubio said. "It would actually make our immigration problems worse, and would further undermine the American people’s confidence in Washington’s ability to enforce our immigration laws and reform our broken immigration system."
Others, like the California based Community Organizing group PICO, argue the president's leaked bill offers a path to citizenship that will take too long.
“If we look to the highly successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy as a model, then the sensible thing would be for DREAMers, who’ve already submitted their paperwork and finger prints for their DACA applications, to be able to apply for green cards after the passage of immigration reform," Gordon Whitman, Policy Director for PICO National Network, said in a statement. "Adults should be able to apply for two-year temporary residence along the lines for DACA, followed by a green card and the ability to apply for citizenship in another five years, which is how the current law works. That would mean, at most, a seven-year path to citizenship."
Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman, said Saturday that Obama still supports a bipartisan effort to craft a comprehensive immigration bill. "While the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit," he said in a statement.
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, described the draft bill as a "very moderate" proposal. While the path to citizenship was welcomed by Noorani, he said not enough attention was being paid to future immigration.
"Commonsense immigration reform must include a functioning immigration system for the future," Noorani said in a statement. "Reform does not begin and end with citizenship and enforcement alone."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.