Lawmakers Wait for Details on Immigration Overhaul Proposals

January 30, 2013

Obama and a group of Senators have called for granting legal status to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., but the details of the plans remain unclear

WASHINGTON — Both President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators have proposed overhauls of the nation’s illegal immigration laws in recent days.  Both proposals were short on details, and elicited a variety of responses from Colorado’s four GOP congressmen.

Rep, Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) urged that young people whose parents came to the U.S illegally be treated with sensitivity.

“When discussing reform, both parties must work together to achieve a solution that is compassionate and practical,” Tipton added.

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) also responded to the Senate and White House legalization proposals in general terms.

“I have always believed this issue must be addressed in a bipartisan way, and I look forward to fully reviewing the Senators’ plans to make sure it aligns with the values of the people of Colorado’s 4th Congressional District,” Gardner said in a statement.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) expressed support for at least one element of the White House proposal.

“I am pleased that the President‘s immigration proposal included a plan aimed at expanding the eligibility for military service to the young men and women who were brought here as children through no fault of their own,” said Coffman, noting that he introduced legislation of his own on Tuesday to accomplish the same goal.

“Regardless of the final outcome of the larger comprehensive package being discussed by the Senate, I strongly believe this piece of the plan must be adopted,” Coffman added.

Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs declined comment.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) also emphasized bipartisanship in his statement, but voiced explicit support for granting citizenship to a broad group of illegal immigrants.

“My position on comprehensive immigration reform is unchanged, is very simple, and has support from both Republicans and Democrats,” Perlmutter said. “We should secure our borders, enforce our immigration laws in the workplace, improve the process of issuing visas, and provide an earned pathway for legal citizenship.”

The general statements reflect a lack of specifics in both the so-called Gang of Eight’s principles, and Obama’s plans, which seek to grant amnesty to most of the 11 million illegal immigrants estimated to be in the country.

At their press conference Monday, the bipartisan group of five senators declined to elaborate on the details of their plan. Consider its most controversial provision, the pathway to citizenship.

The proposal would require illegal immigrants to pay a fine and their back taxes. Yet the proposal fails to specify the amount of the fine, the number of years that illegal immigrants would need to pay their taxes, or how those tax liabilities would be calculated.  When asked for detail on those questions, Senator McCain (R-Az.) said “(w)e have not worked that out.”

McCain added that employers who hired illegal aliens would not be penalized retroactively.  He did not specify the penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers in the future.

“[T]he important point is that employers in the future will not be [rewarded],” he said.

The senators’ proposal is not entirely vague on some details, however.  It would grant permanent legal residency and potentially a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., including those who have earned advanced degrees in math, science, or engineering from an American university, children whose parents came to the U.S. illegally and adults who have not been convicted of a crime.

Illegal aliens would also be given work authorization, and permitted to remain inside the United States while their applications for amnesty are processed.  That is a luxury not available to the millions of foreigners waiting to legally enter the U.S..  They must remain in their countries of origin – sometimes for years – while their petitions and visa applications are reviewed at U.S. embassies and consulates.

President Obama’s plan also lacks specifics. Although his proposal does not tie citizenship for illegal immigrants to border security as the Gang of Eight’s plan does, it too failed to specify key details.

During his speech in Las Vegas, President Obama did not call for providing immigration benefits to same-sex couples as part of his immigration plan, but ABC News reported that one of the White House proposals calls for giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner.”

The two proposals represent the first major attempts to reform the nation’s illegal immigration laws since 2007.

The Gang of Eight senators is composed of Republicans McCain, Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Jeff Flake of Arizona as well as Democrats Schumer, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

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