Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Col.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) make up the "Gang of Eight," and in them lies the best hope of overhauling the countries failed immigration policies.
The atmosphere is strange. A typical bipartisan meeting has a zero sum atmosphere, one side wins and the other side loses. Surprisingly, this is not the case.
According to a recent Los Angeles Times report, the group is closing in on a bill that has a chance to pass and could go into effect relatively soon.
Aides close to the closed-door negotiations are saying that the bill would require illegal immigrants to register with Homeland Security Department (HSD) authorities, file federal income taxes for their time in America and pay a still-to-be-determined fine. In addition, they also must have a clean law enforcement record.
Once granted probationary legal status — the first step in becoming a legal citizen — immigrants would be allowed to work but would be prohibited from receiving federal public benefits, including food stamps, family cash assistance, Medicaid and unemployment insurance.
Although this bill still has a long way to go before it can be passed, seeing bipartisan progress on such a hot-topic issue is breathe of fresh air in this city.
What's unknown is how long illegal immigrants would need to wait before they could apply for permanent resident status and eventually become citizens. Aides close to the situation say that the delay for a green card probably would be 10 years or longer.
Not everything is as it seems, there is still A LOT of work to be done if this "Gang of Eight" wants to have a bill presented before the Senate Judiciary Committee before it breaks on March 22 for Easter recess. Unresolved are such politically charged topics as how many visas to issue to high-tech specialists and other guest workers; how to keep track of when visitors leave the country; and how to pay for more Border Patrol officers, fencing and other security measures in an era of shrinking budgets.
I look forward to seeing what the "Gang of Eight" puts out before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22nd. Although this type of legislation would most likely create a "second tier citizen" by not allowing those granted probationary legal status benefits of a natural born citizen, it would bring together both parties to constructively argue a topic that needs settling immediately if there is any hope for a grand bargain that includes the nations budget, tax code, and health care system.