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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio, other senators set to release far-reaching immigration bill



WASHINGTON — After months of private negotiations, a group of senators are set to reveal sweeping legislation that dramatically shifts immigration policy away from the family based system to one based on work skills.

As part of the merit-based plan, people would be awarded points on education, employment and length of residence in the United States, while families ties would be less important.

The lawmakers were to announce the legislation today but the event was postponed because of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Millions of undocumented residents already in the United States would have to pay at least $2,000 in fines plus back taxes in order to get in the merit-based line, which could lead to citizenship in about 13 years.

The new system would create 120,000 visas per year, according to an outline provided to the Tampa Bay Times. That number could rise by 5 percent per year if demand exceeds supply and unemployment is below 8.5 percent, reaching a ceiling of 250,000.

The legislation seeks to eliminate a backlog of pending permanent resident visa applications, about 4.7 million, but also moves away from a family based system. For example, it phases out immigrant visas for siblings of U.S. citizens.

The legislation creates a low-skill worker program and significantly increases visas for workers in fields with high demand, a victory for the technology industry.

It also puts young immigrants brought to the country illegally by adults on a fast-path to citizenship. So-called "Dreamers" and workers in an agricultural program would get green cards in five years, versus the 10 for everyone else who qualifies.

The younger immigrants would be eligible for citizenship immediately after getting a green card. In a major nod to families that have been split by deportations, people who were expelled for noncriminal reasons can apply to re-enter the United States as long as they lived here before Dec. 31, 2011.

Full story here.

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 1:14am]


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