Senate Group's Plan Alters Waiting Periods for Immigration

Monday, 18 Mar 2013 12:10 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The bipartisan group of eight senators working on an immigration overhaul plan have apparently settled on a provision that would extend the time it takes for illegal immigrants to get green cards but shorten the waiting period for them to become citizens, The New York Times reported.

The path to U.S. citizenship would still take 13 years, however, the same amount of time under a draft proposal from President Barack Obama.

The plan being negotiated by the so-called Group of Eight calls for shrinking the time it takes to become a naturalized citizen to three years from five years after obtaining a permanent work permit or green card. But it would also extend the time immigrants must wait to obtain a green card from the current eight years to 10 years, the Times reported, citing several sources with knowledge of the negotiations.

The Times noted the arrangement gives both Democrats and Republicans something that could help satisfy skeptical constituents. For Republicans, it's a longer waiting period for a green card, and for Democrats it's a shortened waiting period for actual citizenship.

“It is an unusual construction, but it gets them to citizenship in the same time as the administration plan,” Kevin Appleby, the director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Times. “Most importantly, it eliminates the prospect of a permanent underclass by ensuring that, in time, all will have the opportunity to become Americans.”

Despite the progress, the group is still a ways from a final agreement. Hard decisions still have to be made, with perhaps one of the toughest being how to create a guest worker program. The issue is still a "big sticking point," according to the Times, between business interests and unions seeking to protect American workers, despite the fact that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO agreed in February that something has to meet the demand for a lower-skilled, seasonal labor force that wants to work in the U.S. but does not seek to remain here permanently.

Other issues to be worked out include a new system for verifying the status of job applicants and how to prioritize family members of immigrants who want to join their relatives in the United States.

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