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Dems’ immigration reform: Pay your taxes, learn the language, you can stay...According to a Los Angeles Times article...
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has unveiled the Obama administration's plan to reform immigration. Key among the proposals are rules that would allow the current undocumented population to stay in the United States, provided they take a number of steps like learning English and paying back taxes, according to published reports.
"The hope is that when we get into the first part of 2010, that we will see legislation begin to move," Napolitano said, according to The Los Angeles Times.
"An immigration reform bill that includes citizenship for undocumented immigrants is expected to be filed in the House as early as next month by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he will file a bill in the Senate early next year," The San Antonio Express-News. "He favors a citizenship plan, but also wants increased border security measures."
Napolitano made the announcement during a Friday speech to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
Under the administration's proposed rules, in order to become a citizen an undocumented person must register with the government, undergo a criminal background check, pay all back taxes and fees and learn to speak English.
The Homeland Security secretary called the process a "tough path" to becoming a U.S. citizen, but credited it as a system of immigration "that works." She added that President Obama had personally asked her to take point on this issue.
"[In] order to have fully effective law enforcement, we need Congress to create the legal foundation for bringing the millions of illegal immigrants in this country out of the shadows, require them to register and pay all taxes they owe, and enforce the penalties that they will have to pay as part of earning legal status," Napolitano added. "Let me emphasize this: we will never have fully effective law enforcement or national security as long as so many millions remain in the shadows."
The undocumented immigrant community is roughly 10 million strong in the United States, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates [PDF link]. The study found that while a vast majority of immigration from Mexico is illegal, Mexicans make up just 57 percent of the total undocumented population. Pew also noted that some 1.7 million of that population are under the age of 18.
Napolitano said the government's progress in shoring up the border with Mexico and enforcing laws at the workplace meant that more Americans and more lawmakers would support an overhaul of laws than during the last effort, in 2007.
Critics responded that immigration reform was code for a blanket amnesty, and that the strides Napolitano cited in enforcement were overstated.
They also said that economic turbulence, with 10.2% unemployment, meant the timing was bad for an effort to legalize undocumented workers.
"The substance of her case is divorced from the reality of America's economy today," said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. "The arguments against amnesty are far stronger today than they were in 2007. You have a much tighter job market."
Napolitano pointed to improved border security as the strongest argument for immigration reform's better chances. Since 2007, more than 600 miles of border fence have been built in the Southwest, and there are now more than 20,000 patrol officers guarding the nation's southern boundary, she said.