Highlights of the immigration and border security bill before the Senate:
—Allows illegal immigrants in the country five years or more to remain, continue working and eventually become legal residents after paying fines, back taxes and learning English.
—Requires illegal immigrants in the U.S. between two and five years to go to a point of entry at the border and file an application to return.
—Requires those in the country less than two years to leave.
—Creates a special guest worker program for an estimated 1.5 million immigrant farm workers, who could also earn legal permanent residency.
—Provides up to 325,000 temporary visas a year for future workers, with additional visas possible based on labor market demands.
—Adds up to 14,000 Border Patrol agents by 2011 to the current force of 11,300 agents, for a potential total of 25,300.
—Authorizes additional detention facilities for apprehended illegal immigrants.
—Requires employers and subcontractors to use an electronic system to verify new hires are legal within 18 months and increases penalties up to $20,000 per illegal worker and jail time for repeat offenders.
House bill passed in December:
—No provisions providing path to legal residency or citizenship for illegal immigrants. No new temporary guest worker program.
—Makes illegal presence in the country a felony and increases penalties for first-time illegal entry to the U.S.
—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.
—Beginning in six years, all employers would have to use a database to verify Social Security numbers of all employees.
—Increases maximum fines for employers of illegal workers from current $10,000 to $40,000 per violation and establishes prison sentences of up to 30 years for repeat offenders.
—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 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.