Two senators on opposite sides of the aisle are proposing comprehensive changes to immigration laws that would include a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now in the US.

Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who promoted similar proposals on separate Sunday TV news shows, said no path to citizenship would be available until the country’s borders were secure. Only then could those in the US without authorisation “come out of the shadows, get biometrically identified, start paying taxes, pay a fine for the law they broke,” Graham said on CBS’ 'Face the Nation.'

“They can’t stay unless they learn our language, and they have to get in the back of line before they become citizens. They can’t cut in front of the line regarding people who are doing it right and it can take over a decade to get their green card.” A green card grants permanent residency status, and is a step on the road to citizenship.

Schumer told NBC’s 'Meet the Press' that he and Graham have resumed talks on immigration policy that broke off two years ago and “have put together a comprehensive detailed blueprint on immigration reform” that has “the real potential for bipartisan support based on the theory that most Americans are for legal immigration, but very much against illegal immigration.”

Graham, however, made no mention of working with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.

Immigration policy, largely ignored during President Barack Obama’s first four years in office, has re-emerged as a major issue as Republicans seek ways to rebound from their election performance. More than 70 per cent of Hispanic voters supported Obama, who has been more open than Republicans to a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.

Three days after Tuesday’s election, House Speaker John Boehner said it was time to address immigration policy. He urged Obama to take the lead in coming up with a plan that would look at both improved enforcement of immigration law and the future of the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally. Boehner, however, did not commit to the citizenship issue.

Graham said the “tone and rhetoric” Republicans used in the immigration debate of 2006 and 2007 “has built a wall between the Republican Party and Hispanic community,” causing Hispanic support to dwindle from 44 per cent in the 2004 presidential race to 27 per cent in 2012.

(This article was published on November 12, 2012)
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