Washington: With most major issues ironed out, a bipartisan group of senators is expected to announce on Tuesday a plan to legalise America's 11 million illegal immigrants, including 260,000 Indians, according to various media reports. The deal being crafted by the so-called "Gang of Eight" senators would exclude any immigrants who arrived in the country after December 31, 2011, the New York Times said, citing three people with knowledge of the negotiations.
Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives, meanwhile, have been working on their own immigration overhaul plan. But details of the House blueprint are not yet available. That proposed cutoff date could bar hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived illegally in the US in the last 16 months from applying for legal status, the Times said.
Immigration advocates and Democrats in the Senate group had been pushing for the date to be as current as possible - January 1, 2013 - while Senator Marco Rubio viewed as a potential Republican presidential contender had argued for an even earlier cutoff, it said. Conservatives have argued that the emerging plan will be tantamount to amnesty for people who initially entered or have remained in the US illegally.
CNN citing sources said negotiators within and outside the group were also able to find common ground on one of the last significant hurdles-wages and visas for undocumented farm workers. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold their first public hearing on the legislation on Wednesday, followed most likely by committee markups in May and consideration by the full Senate in June, the news channel said citing sources.
Among other things, the eight senators - four Democrats and four Republicans - have reached agreement on a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented residents, as well as the creation of a system to assess the state of border security. Specifically, the senators have agreed to a 13-year path to citizenship. It would take 10 years for undocumented workers to get a green card, and then another three years to gain citizenship.
Along the way, undocumented workers would have to pay a fine and back taxes, and pass a background check. The size of the fine remains unclear. No undocumented worker would be eligible for citizenship until the US border with Mexico from where about 59 per cent of the illegal immigrants have come, is considered secure-a key sticking point for conservatives.
To measure border security, a commission would be created with the task of establishing and assessing a set of quantifiable criteria. The commission would be made up of officials named by state and federal leaders.