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History of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

History of Comprehensive Immigration ReformA proposal for comprehensive immigration reform was introduced by the US Senate’s “Gang of Eight”, in April and this immigration reform bill includes a 13 year path to US citizenship for the undocumented residents. In 2004, senators Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., worked together and introduced an immigration reform bill. The top priority for the Republicans was border security and the Democrats wanted to legalize undocumented immigrants. Both the parties also wanted to prevent US employers from hiring undocumented immigrants. Both the parties supported a guest worker program that would permit foreign nationals to work in America but not to become permanent residents of the country. The Senate approved the Kennedy-McCain initiative but the bill did not pass the US House, though it was supported by President George W. Bush.

The key elements of the immigration reform bill were enhanced border securities, penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants, guest worker programs and paths to US citizenship for the undocumented immigrants. In the year 2009, President Obama took office and he promised that he would reform the country’s immigration laws and legalize undocumented immigrants. But he failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform in his first term and he stated that he would get the reform done in his second term. According to President Obama, comprehensive immigration reform must include border security measures and it must contain serious penalties for US companies that hire undocumented immigrants.

The immigration reform bill unveiled by the senators includes similar provisions that were included in the bill of Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain. According to the bill of the “Gang of Eight”, the US Department of Homeland Security must secure the borders of the country and achieve 90 percent effectiveness and only after this happens, undocumented immigrants would be permitted to apply for legal status. Likewise, the bill would expand few existing visa programs like the V visa program and H-1B visa program. Moreover, new guest worker programs for low-skilled workers and agricultural workers would be created. All the US employers would be required to use E-Verify and would be prevented from hiring undocumented immigrants. The bill is supported by many as the bill would create a pathway to US citizenship for all the undocumented immigrants who are living in the country and for certain categories of undocumented immigrants who were deported from the country.

Earlier, the Republicans opposed allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the country. But, Hispanics, in large numbers voted for President Obama in 2012 and now the Republicans also want to attract those voters. Hence, they have also started to support immigration reform. Under the legislation of the Gang of Eight, undocumented immigrants who learn English, pay taxes, pay fines and undergo background checks could apply for legal status and then for US citizenship. However, they would be put on a waiting list and they would have to wait for years to obtain US citizenship.

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