His support for the legislation was considered a major breakthrough, and he said it matches the principles on which he had been working.
“We have to modernize our legal immigration system, we have to have a real enforcement mechanism to ensure we’re never here again in the future, and we have to deal with the people that are here now in a way that’s responsible but humane,” Mr. Rubio said. “This does that.”
The senators said they hope to have a bill written by March, and hope to push the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee by late spring or summer.
They called for giving illegal immigrants instant legal probationary status, meaning that deportations would halt the day the legislation is signed into law. But those immigrants wouldn’t get a full path to citizenship until the country’s borders are deemed more secure, and until the government creates a system that can track visitors to make sure they aren’t overstaying their visas. The current backlog of legal applicants would also have to be cleared before any illegal immigrants were approved.
Taking on the sticky issue of access to welfare and other public benefits, the senators said those who get legal status won’t be eligible for assistance immediately.
“Current restrictions preventing nonimmigrants from accessing federal public benefits will also apply to lawful probationary immigrants,” the senators said in their framework.
Illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, and those working in the agriculture sector, would not have to go through all of the steps that other illegal immigrants will have to endure, and could have access to some benefits.
In 2007, the last time the Senate had a major immigration debate, the bill failed in part because lawmakers couldn’t agree on whether to give future guest workers a path to citizenship, meaning that overall immigration to the United States would be raised. Some business groups and many Republicans preferred a true guest-worker program in which workers would return to their home countries after a period of years.
Monday’s framework comes down on the side of a path to citizenship for guest workers.
The senators vowed the border measures would ensure the country never gets to a point where illegal immigrants are pouring across the borders or overstaying their visas.
It’s the same vow lawmakers made back in 1986, when Congress last approved an amnesty legalizing millions of illegal immigrants and setting up the current immigration system.
Mr. McCain said they will boost fines for hiring illegal immigrants and will enact a better system for employers to check their hires.
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