DENVER – Lawmakers on both sides of the immigration debate were outraged this weekend after components of a White House proposal outlining a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens was leaked to the media.
The Obama proposal, which was initially revealed by USA Today, would create a new 4-year, multiple-entry visa for illegal immigrants who pay a fee, provide biometric information such as fingerprints, and submit to some form of criminal background check.
The visa would provide illegal immigrants with legal status, allowing them to remain in the U.S. pending processing of their application, and permit them to leave the U.S. for short visits – privileges which are not currently available to many legal U.S. visa holders, or foreigners applying to immigrate to the U.S. legally.
News reports also suggest that illegal aliens who have committed crimes – including those who have spent short periods of time in local jails or done prison time – would be eligible for the visa. Repeat offenders who have been convicted of three or more crimes, those who have committed serious offenses, and those who have spent more than one year in prison or more than 90 days in jail, on the other hand, would not be eligible.
Lawmakers were quick to respond to the leaked White House plan, with some suggesting that the leak may have been orchestrated by the White House itself to prevent a compromise and keep the immigration issue alive for the 2014 midterm election.
“By putting these details out without a guest worker program, without addressing future flow, by giving advantage to those who cut in front of line for immigrants who came here legally, not dealing with border security adequately, that tells us that he’s looking for a partisan advantage and not a bipartisan solution,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said Sunday on ABC’s This Week.
“Leaks don’t happen in Washington by accident,” said Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), echoing Ryan’s sentiments. “Does the president really want a result? Or does he want another cudgel to beat up Republicans so he can gain advantage in the next election?”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), a leading proponent of immigration reform and one of eight lawmakers working to hammer out bipartisan, compromise legislation on the topic, also blasted the Obama proposal, pronouncing it “dead on arrival in Congress.”
On Monday, Fox News quoted an unnamed administration official as being “surprised” that the White House proposal found its way into the media.
“This was not the administration floating anything,” Fox News reported the official as saying.