This new effort is being taken up by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has taken command over the issue in the wake of Sen. Ted Kennedy's death earlier this year.
The bill will take aim at ending the joint federal-local deportation program known as 287(g), stop additional border patrols and fence building and establish a "long-term path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants already living in the U.S.
That path would require illegal immigrants to pay a $500 fine, pass a background check and learn English and civics to gain legal status. After six years, they could apply for legal permanent residence, or a green card, which is the interim step to citizenship. There is no "touchback" provision requiring them to return to their home countries at some point in the process.Among the major advocates of the amnesty plan is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)--a group likely to look for recruits in newly legalized workers. "It certainly will confuse the debate a lot more, but at the end of the day what we have to understand is fixing this system will be good for American workers," Eliseo Medina, the group's executive vice president told the Washington Times.
Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping to capitalize opposition to the measure on today's poor job market:
"With 15 million Americans out of work, it's hard to believe that anyone would give amnesty to 12 million illegal immigrants," said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. "Even the open-borders crowd agrees that illegal immigrants take jobs from American workers, particularly poor and disadvantaged citizens and legal immigrants. This is exactly why we need to oppose amnesty."