Senators and the Bush administration this afternoon reached an immigration deal that makes a multistep path to citizenship available to almost 12 million illegal aliens and would rewrite the entire legal immigration system to favor those with key work skills.
Illegal aliens would come forward and receive probationary status while the government continues to build fencing and vehicle barriers on the border and institutes better checks to make sure employers are hiring legal workers.
Once the security improvements are finished, the probationary aliens could apply for a visa putting them on the path to citizenship, though they would have to return home before collecting a green card [-] the intermediary step to citizenship.
The plan would create a temporary worker system for future foreign workers and revamp the immigration system to institute a points system that would reward those with needed skills.
The deal didn't thrill either side, but both sides said it is the only chance for a bill to pass.
"This is the best, I think, that can be done," said Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican.
The deal was announced at a press conference attended by seven Republicans, three Democrats and two Cabinet secretaries: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez.
Sen. Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican whose sign-off guaranteed the agreement, said he felt pressure during last year's election to "do something."
President Bush, who has made immigration his chief domestic priority since Democrats won control of Congress, urged passage of the bill.
"This proposal delivers an immigration system that is secure, productive, orderly and fair," he said in a statement.