New bipartisan bill could overhaul immigration system - Tucson News Now

New bipartisan bill could overhaul immigration system

(Source: CBS 5 News) (Source: CBS 5 News)
WASHINGTON (CBS/CBS5) -

A new bill before Congress would overhaul the immigration system and allow millions of illegal workers to stay in the country.

Sens. John McCain, R-AZ, and Chuck Schumer, D-NY, met with President Barack Obama to outline the bipartisan bill.

"The president realizes no one is going to get everything they want in a bill, but if we meet in the middle, we can do a lot of good," Schumer said.

The measure would give the 11 million illegal immigrants in this country legal status if they pass a background check. After 13 years, they can then seek citizenship and federal benefits, but only after paying a series of fines.

"I feel confident that at the end of the day we will get a bill to the president's desk because all major players involved in this issue debate are now on board," McCain said.

The bill would also speed up the immigration process for highly skilled workers, like entrepreneurs, scientists and doctors, who are waiting to get into the U.S.

The Senate is expected to hold hearings on the legislation later this week but the measure faces months of debate and plenty of opponents.

Critics say illegal immigrants shouldn't be rewarded for breaking the law.

"Many of them will be low-wage, low-skill workers who will in fact pull down the wages of existing, struggling American families," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, said.

The eight Democrats and Republicans behind the bill believe other parts of the legislation can win over skeptics. It includes $4.5 billion for border security, a new fence and stiffer penalties for employers who hire illegal workers.

The White House released the following statement on the bill:

"This afternoon, Senators Schumer and McCain briefed me on the bipartisan immigration reform bill that they have drafted with their colleagues in the Senate. This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me. But it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform. This bill would continue to strengthen security at our borders and hold employers more accountable if they knowingly hire undocumented workers. It would provide a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are already in this country illegally. And it would modernize our legal immigration system so that we're able to reunite families and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers who will help create good paying jobs and grow our economy. These are all commonsense steps that the majority of Americans support. I urge the Senate to quickly move this bill forward and, as I told Senators Schumer and McCain, I stand willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible."

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce had this to say following the release of a 17-page summary of the immigration reform legislation:

"Today marks a crucial step on the path to real reform of the nation's broken immigration system. Our Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake deserve tremendous credit for working with their fellow Gang of Eight members to craft such a comprehensive package, one that reflects the unique challenges faced by Arizona and other border states. "I believe we have reached a moment where Congress, with the support of the American people, can send to the president a bill that ensures border security, promotes a healthy economy through desperately needed visa reform in both the high tech and low-skilled sectors and humanely deals with the estimated 11 million individuals who are not in the country legally. "The Chamber and the rest of Arizona's business community will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Senators McCain and Flake as debate over this important bill commences."

Copyright 2013 CBS News. All rights reserved.  CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.

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