U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, said he supports reforming the
immigration system, and he thinks now is a good time to do so.
"I think most Americans realize that our current system is clearly broken," Perry said. "We don't have enough visas to encourage people to come here legally. America's trust in our border security has waned."
Americans got a look at what some changes could be Monday, as leading Democratic and Republican senators introduced a blueprint to overhaul the immigration system, providing a possible path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people now in the U.S. illegally.
The senators acknowledged pitfalls that have doomed such efforts in the past, but they suggested that November's elections -- with Hispanics voting heavily for President Barack Obama and other Democrats -- could make this time different.
Passage of the emotionally-charged legislation by the Democratic-controlled Senate is far from assured, and a taller hurdle could come later in the House, which is dominated by conservative Republicans who've shown little interest in immigration overhaul. Obama will lay out his own proposals Tuesday, most of which mirror the Senate plans.
Besides the citizenship provision, including new qualifications, the Senate measure would increase border security, allow more temporary workers to stay and crack down on employers who would hire illegal immigrants. The plans are still short on detail, and all the senators conceded that months of tedious and politically treacherous negotiations lie ahead.
But with a re-elected Obama pledging his commitment, the lawmakers argued that six years after the last sustained congressional effort at an immigration overhaul came up short in the Senate, chances for approval this year are much better.
The bipartisan group of eight includes U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
"I see that there are four Republicans and four Democrats. It's interesting that they are actually working together," said Jose Colon, ambassador and past president for Centro Hispano Jose Hernandez in York.
Colon said he was pleased to see the Senate leaders make the proposal, and he supports making the immigration process less cumbersome.
"Most of the immigrants that come here -- they really come to work ... for the betterment of their family," Colon said.
John Rizzo, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said in a statement that the senator supports an immigration policy that is "tough, practical and fair." And he called Republicans and Democrats working together a positive development.
G. Terry Madonna, a pollster and political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, said he thinks there's a high probability that there will be a deal on immigration.
"For the Republicans, it's very important, given what's going on with the Hispanic vote," said Madonna.
The Hill reported last week that more Republicans are projecting a softer position on the issue of amnesty.
When asked about illegal immigration during the congressional primary campaign, Perry said he's "not an amnesty guy."
Perry made the comments during a March candidate forum sponsored by the York 912 Patriots. He said he has ancestors who came to the country through Ellis Island, legally.
"And I think it's a slap in the face to everyone that does it correctly and does it legally to just let other folks walk across the border and avail themselves to what America holds in it," he said at the time.
In December, Perry said that if people were brought to this country illegally as young children and are now older teenagers or young adults, they are American for all intents and purposes and it would be "fairly inhumane" to deport them to a third world country.
Under the framework that senators introduced Monday, such people would not face the same requirements as others for citizenship. Agricultural workers would have a different process, too.
On Monday, Perry said he's interested in looking at more details for reforming the immigration system. He expressed support for securing the border as the first step for immigration reform, and he said there could be ways to create pathways to citizenship without giving "wholesale amnesty."
"I think there needs to be some ways to get there, understanding the financial and public policy reality of the circumstances," Perry said. "And I think that is very different from amnesty -- just saying, 'You're here now, and you're an American citizen.'"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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