US Senate Negotiates Immigration Reform with Harsh Conditions

Negotiations for immigration reform in the United States are coming to a decisive moment. Although it seems impossible that a definitive proposal will be reached by the two parties this month — as was originally predicted — due to time restraints, it is almost certain that an agreement will be reached in April. What is also very likely is that the conditions of the “amnesty” will be very harsh.

According to declarations made by a high-ranking Republican in the Senate to El Mundo, the reform will require immigrants to reside in the country for 15 years before they are able to gain U.S. citizenship. However, of that period, for the final five years they will be provided with a residence permit and permanent jobs — in other words, a green card. The same source denied that protests and demonstrations regarding the reforms by some immigrant organizations will affect the deliberations of the Senate.

The daily paper the Los Angeles Times announced this Monday that the proposal made by the “Gang of Eight,” as the group of four Republican and four Democrats that is negotiating the reform project is known, will include other very harsh measures. In order for undocumented immigrants to become legitimate they must pay a fine; once this has been paid, they would have a status which would not allow them to receive food stamps — a habitual practice in the United States — or access Medicaid, the public health care system for low-income people.

According to the sources with which this paper has consulted, this status could last for 10 years, after which they could opt for a green card. It would then be necessary to stay for a minimum of five years to be able to apply for citizenship. Furthermore, in that period of time, an independent commission must be able to declare that the border is “secure”; this refers to not only security systems in the southern United States but also in airports and other points of entry, as well as new IT systems to control tourists and other legal visitors. It is estimated that one third of the illegal immigrants in the U.S. have arrived in the country in a legal manner and have simply remained beyond the expiration of their visa.

It is not clear whether the reform, which should be voted on by the Senate just before summer, will be ratified by the House of Representatives. There, the Republicans are much “tougher” and less willing to compromise with the Senate. Also, the question of whether illegal immigrants will end up receiving U.S. passports raises the hackles of many members of the Republican Party. There are, in fact, Republican senators who have already announced that they will oppose the reform.

Bush’s Book

To complicate matters further, Jeb Bush — ex-governor of Florida and son and brother of the respective Bush presidents — has just published a book in which he offers his own proposal for immigration reform. The book is entitled “Immigration Wars” and rejects the suggestion that illegal immigrants should be able to attain U.S. nationality. This position represents a U-turn in his views; up to that point he had always defended the policy of allowing immigrants to attain U.S. nationality. Although the former governor of Florida (who speaks fluent Spanish) has always denied it, everything seems to indicate that his book is a concession to the tougher wing of his party as he looks ahead to candidature for the presidency in 2016.

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