WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee's bill:
—Allows illegal immigrants who were in the United States before 2004 to work legally for six years if they pay a $1,000 fine and clear a criminal background check. They would become eligible for permanent residence upon paying another $1,000 fine and any back taxes and having learned English.
—Allows illegal immigrants brought here as children to be eligible for in-state tuition. They must have high school diplomas or GEDs, and have no criminal record. Also allows them to eventually apply for citizenship.
—Creates a guest worker program for would-be immigrants to obtain three-year visas, renewable for another three years. They could then apply for legal permanent residence without leaving the United States. The program would be open to 400,000 individuals a year, a figure to be adjusted annually based on the labor market.
—Removes criminal penalties for immigrants found to be in the country illegally.
—Creates a temporary, five-year guest worker program for an estimated 1.5 million immigrant farm workers. Applicants for these so-called "blue cards" would have to show they had already worked in farm jobs in the United States for 150 days within the two previous years. Employment claims would be subject to verification. Participants would be allowed to take non-farm jobs in certain circumstances. Blue card holders would be eligible to apply for permanent residency (green cards) after three or five years. Illegal immigrants applying for blue cards would be required to pay a $500 fine and show they are current on their taxes and have not been convicted of a serious crime.
—Authorizes up to 14,000 new Border Patrol agents by 2011, more than doubling the current force of 11,300 agents.
—Authorizes a "virtual wall" of unmanned vehicles, cameras and sensors to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border.
—Calls for facilities to hold another 10,000 illegal immigrants who are apprehended.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's proposal:
—Requires all employers to verify the identity and immigration status of their employees through an electronic system.
—Assesses civil penalties of between $500 and $20,000 against employers for each illegal immigrant they hire; criminal penalties of up to $20,000 per illegal immigrant hired; and up to six months in jail for engaging in a pattern of employing illegal workers.
—More than doubles the number of employment-based green cards, from 140,000 to 290,000, and makes more employment-based visas available to unskilled workers. It also would free up other visas by exempting immediate relatives of U.S. citizens from being counted in the annual pool of 480,000 visas, and would increase country-by-country ceilings on family-sponsored and employment-based immigrants.
—Cancels visas of immigrants who have overstayed their visas and requires them to return to their home country to undergo additional screening at U.S. consulates.
—Makes it a misdemeanor for an immigrant to be in the country illegally.
—Increases the number of visas available for high-tech workers.
—Does not address President Bush's proposal for a guest worker program.
House bill passed in December:
—Gives all employers six years to begin using a database to verify Social Security numbers of employees.
—Establishes civil and criminal penalties for hiring illegal workers.
—Requires mandatory detention for all non-Mexican illegal immigrants arrested at ports of entry or at land and sea borders.
—Establishes mandatory sentences for smuggling illegal immigrants and for re-entering the United States illegally after deportation.
—Makes illegal presence in the country a felony.
—Makes it a felony to assist, encourage, direct or induce a person to enter or attempt to enter or remain in the United States illegally.
—Makes a drunken driving conviction a deportable offense.
—Requires building two-layer fences along 700 miles of the 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the United States.
—Does not address President Bush's proposed guest worker program for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.