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Senate Releases Immigration Reform Bill

Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on a bill to make the most substantive changes to immigration laws in nearly three decades. The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” would affect visas for high-tech workers, create a new “W-visa” program to attract low-skilled workers, and require businesses to implement new electronic-verification requirements to check the immigration status of their employees.

The bill will also create what is certain to be a controversial pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants to become permanent legal residents a decade after they register with the government. Immigrants would pay a $2,000 fine, pass a background check, have a job, and wait 10 years before applying for a green card. Three years after that, they could apply to become U.S. citizens. Dream Act youth can obtain green cards in five years and citizenship immediately thereafter.

In exchange for the “pathway to citizenship” for many immigrants, conservatives demanded language in the bill that would call for billions of dollars to be spent on tightened security at the U.S.-Mexico border with a goal of apprehending 90 percent of those crossing the border in “high-risk” areas. But the whole process is contingent, at several points over a decade, on the government meeting certain border-security benchmarks.