US drafts plan to give illegal immigrants residency within 8 years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 February, 2013, 5:24am

The White House is drafting an immigration plan that would allow illegal immigrants to become legal permanent US residents within eight years.

The plan would also allocate additional security funds and require business owners to check the immigration status of any new hires within four years. The estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States could also apply for a "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa, a report from USA Today said.

According to the draft, which USA Today said was being circulated among various government agencies, visa applicants would need to pass a criminal background check, file biometric information and pay fees.

Once approved, they could reside in the US legally, work and leave the country for short visits without losing their status.

A new identification card would prove their legal residence in the country. And, within eight years, the immigrants could apply for a green card to obtain legal permanent residence if they learn English and "the history and government of the United States". They would also have to pay back taxes.

With a green card in hand, immigrants would then be on a path to apply for citizenship. Republicans criticised the draft, and were angry at not being consulted.

"It's a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress," said Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida.

White House spokesman Clark Stevens said President Barack Obama supported a bipartisan effort for a wider immigration bill. "While the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit," he said.

The National Immigration Forum, which advocates for immigration reform, said the proposal seemed "very moderate" but lacked the necessary provisions for a future comprehensive immigration system beyond citizenship and enforcement.

"America's economy needs the president and Congress to craft a stable immigration system that serves our economy and our workforce," said the group's executive director, Ali Noorani.