WHITE HOUSE: NEW VISA FOR 'ILLEGALS' IN THE WORKS


FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks about immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. The White House is circulating a draft immigration bill that would create a new visa for illegal immigrants living in the United States and allow them to become legal permanent residents within eight years, according to a report published online Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 by USA Today. President Barack Obama's bill would create a "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. Carolyn Kaster, File / AP Photo

WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY 18, 2013 (MANILA STANDARD) By Manila Standard Today  — The White House is circulating a draft immigration bill that would create a new visa for illegal immigrants living in the United States and allow them to become legal permanent residents within eight years, according to a report published online by USA Today.

President Barack Obama’s bill would create a “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” visa for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. The bill includes more security funding and requires business owners to adopt a system for verifying the immigration status of new hires within four years, the newspaper reported Saturday.

USA Today reported that the bill would require that immigrants pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa. Immigrants who served more than a year in prison for a criminal conviction or were convicted of three or more crimes and were sentenced to a total of 90 days in jail would not be eligible. Crimes committed in other countries that would bar immigrants from legally entering the country would also be ineligible.

Those immigrants facing deportation would be eligible to apply for the visa, the newspaper reported. Immigrants would be eligible to apply for a green card within eight years, if they learn English and U.S. history and government, and they would later be eligible to become U.S. citizens.

Last month a bipartisan group of senators announced they had agreed on the general outline of an immigration plan. For his part, Obama has said he would not submit his own legislation to Congress so long as law makers acted “in a timely manner.” If they failed, he said, “I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.”

Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman, said Saturday that Obama still supports a bipartisan effort to craft a comprehensive immigration bill. “While the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who has been crafting immigration legislation, derided the draft bill as described by the newspaper as “half-baked and seriously flawed” and said it was disappointing because it repeats what he called failures of past legislation. He also said the White House had erred in not seeking input from Republican lawmakers.

“If actually proposed, the president’s bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come,” Rubio said in a statement.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, described the draft bill as a “very moderate” proposal. While the path to citizenship was welcomed by Noorani, he said not enough attention was being paid to future immigration.

“Commonsense immigration reform must include a functioning immigration system for the future,” Noorani said in a statement. “Reform does not begin and end with citizenship and enforcement alone.”

FROM THE MIAMI HERALD

White House calls draft immigration plan a backup By PHILIP ELLIOTT Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Republicans and Democrats alike on Sunday predicted President Barack Obama would fail if he pushed forward with his own effort to overhaul the nation's immigration system and urged the administration to hold off while lawmakers work on a bipartisan measure.

Republican Sen. John McCain predicted the administration's efforts would come up short if the White House went forward with a proposal to put the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. on a long pathway to citizenship. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who met with Obama on Wednesday at the White House to discuss progress, urged his allies in the administration to give a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers the time to hammer out a deal on their own.

Obama's newly appointed top aide, chief of staff Denis McDonough, said the White House would only send its plan to Congress if the lawmakers stumble in their efforts and cast its efforts as a backup plan.

"Well, let's make sure that it doesn't have to be proposed," McDonough said of the president's pitch, first reported on USA Today's website late Saturday.

"We will be prepared with our own plan if these ongoing talks between Republicans and Democrats up on Capitol Hill break down," McDonough said in a second interview, adding he's optimistic they would not crumble.

The administration's proposal would create a visa for those in the country illegally and allow them to become legal permanent residents within eight years. The proposal also requires businesses to know the immigration status of their workers and adds more funding for border security.

It drew immediate criticism from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

"If actually proposed, the president's bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come," said Rubio, who is among the eight lawmakers searching for a comprehensive plan.

Many of the details in the administration's draft proposal follow the broad principles that Obama previously outlined. But the fact the administration is writing its own alternative signaled Obama wants to address immigration sooner rather than later and perhaps was looking to nudge lawmakers to move more quickly.

The tactic potentially complicates the administration's work with Congress.

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin lawmaker who was his party's vice presidential nominee last year, said the timing of the leak suggested the White House was looking for "a partisan advantage and not a bipartisan solution."

"Leaking this out does set things in the wrong direction," said Ryan, who could be a serious contender for his party's presidential nomination in 2016. "There are groups in the House and the Senate working together to get this done and when he does things like this, it makes that much more difficult to do that."

Freshman Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, called the leaked plan "incomplete" and said both parties in Congress and the White House need to work together on a solution.

"It hasn't happened yet. It will happen before something is acted upon and certainly before something is passed," he said.

McCain, the Arizona senator whose previous efforts at an immigration overhaul ended in failure in 2007, predicted the White House proposal's demise if it were sent to Congress. He strongly urged the president to pocket the drafted measures and give senators a chance to finish their work.

"I believe we are making progress in a bipartisan basis," McCain, who is among the Senate group working on legislation, said.

Schumer, a New York Democrat and a close ally to the White House, said he has not seen the draft proposals but, along with the Democrats working on a compromise, met with Obama this week to talk about progress being made on Capitol Hill. Schumer acknowledged that a single-party proposal would have a much more difficult time becoming law and urged the bipartisan group of senators to keep meeting to find common ground.

"I am very hopeful that in March we will have a bipartisan bill," Schumer said. "And, you know, it's obvious if a Democrat - the president or anyone else - puts out what they want on their own, (it) is going to be different than when you have a bipartisan agreement. But the only way we're going to get something done is with a bipartisan agreement."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., suggested Obama's proposed plan was going nowhere but added that his party was evaluating its relationship with Hispanic voters, who supported Obama in November with 71 percent of their votes.

"I think people want a little different face on immigration, frankly," said Paul, who is also considered among the 2016 presidential hopefuls. "They don't want somebody who wants to round people up, put them in camps and send them back to Mexico."

The Associated Press, relying on a CQ Roll Call transcript that was distributed after "Fox News Sunday" and omitted the word "don't" in that quote, initially reported that Paul saw his party as in favor of such efforts to deport immigrants. The AP's subsequent review of an audio recording of the broadcast confirmed the missing word.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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