But quietly, a series of administration policy changes in recent months already has begun to transform how illegal immigrants live, work and go to school in the United States. In addition to last summer's announcement to defer deportations and give work permits to hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth, the White House announced last month that it was going to make legal permanent residency easier for many illegal immigrants who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
When Obama announces his measure in Las Vegas, local immigrant activist Christine Neumann-Ortiz will be in the room, along with a striking worker from Palermo's pizza.
Neumann-Ortiz, the director and founder of Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant rights and low-wage worker center, was invited to attend the event by the AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO and its national president, Richard Trumka, is one of a number of groups invited to be present for the announcement.
Reacting to the senators' proposal, Neumann-Ortiz said, "Broadly speaking, it's very encouraging because it shows momentum and a significant consensus around a path to citizenship, which is a major development."
Buffalo County dairy farmer John Rosenow, who has pushed for years to try to get comprehensive immigration reform for the dairy industry, which uses immigrant workers, said he also was pleased with the framework -- although he noted that a lot of details have yet to be worked out.
"It's the best I've seen in 10 years and I think generally it's really, really good," he said. "And I'm really pleased that it was a bipartisan effort."
He said he especially liked that the "special needs and importance of agricultural workers" were spelled out in the proposal. Under the plan, undocumented farm workers who "have been performing very important and difficult work to maintain America's food supply while earning subsistence wages" could earn a path to citizenship through a different and presumably more lenient visa process for agricultural workers.
Paul Zimmerman, a lobbyist with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, said the bureau has been working nationally for the past decade to get immigration reform passed, but consensus could not be found. "The fact that something has been proposed is positive, and we look forward to working with it," he said.
Key is the details
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, a Janesville Republican, speaking in a meeting with Journal Sentinel editors and reporters, said Monday that he had not yet seen the new immigration proposal, but that's he's generally endorsed the principles outlined by Rubio.
Better border security, a good employer verification system and what Ryan termed "earned legalization" for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants need to be part of any package, he said.
Ryan said he prefers immigration reform to be broken into smaller pieces instead of dealing with a big comprehensive bill that might "collapse of its own weight."
But he said he believes immigration reform is doable this year.
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Menomonee Falls who fueled national marches a few years ago when he proposed criminalizing illegal immigrants, echoed some of Ryan's concerns, saying "the devil is in the details."
"I want to see actual legislation and assess the intended and unintended consequences of the policies. Extending amnesty to those who came here illegally or overstayed their visas is dangerous waters," he said in a statement. "We are a nation of laws, and I will evaluate any proposal through that matrix."
Nationally, Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for Numbers USA, issued a statement that called the Senate proposal "Amnesty 2.0 -- meaningless enforcement measures, mass amnesty and increases in legal immigration, with taxpayers left to foot the bill."
Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report, along with Journal Sentinel wire services.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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