A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio, today unveiled a set of principles designed to guide legislation on immigration reform.
Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Charles Schumer. D-N.Y., John McCain, R-Ariz., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who have dubbed themselves the "Gang of Eight," have been working together since late last year, according to a press release.
The group disclosed a five-page plan with terms they felt must be included in any immigration reform legislation to "ensure that it can successfully work its way through both chambers and ultimately to the president's desk."
"When I talk about the nation's economy, reform is critical," Menedez said at a press conference. "The reality is that even in a very tight economy there are all types of industries in our country, which have used the work of immigrants every day to achieve the economic goals of those industries."
The senators laid out four elements:
- Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S. that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
- Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
- Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers;
- Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation's workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.
"The reality is this will be an arduous pathway, but it will be a fair one," Menedez said. "It will be one that those who have come to this country to achieve the American dream will come forth, must register with the government or they will lose those opportunities."
Immigrants who come forward also will have to go through a criminal background check, pay any back taxes owed, and -- for the first time in U.S. history -- learn English before qualifying to become a permanent resident, Menendez added.
The plan also recognized circumstances as they pertain to children and farm workers, noting that all immigrants' status cannot be addressed identically. Because labor workers who work in the agricultural industry perform difficult work important to America's food supply "while earning subsistence wages," they will be treated differently than the rest of the undocumented population "because of the role they play in ensuring that Americans have safe and secure agricultural products to sell and consume."
These individuals will have a different path to citizenship through a new agricultural worker program.
Watch Menendez's entire remarks on immigration reform, below:
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