WASHINGTON – The Senate's top Democrat joined a Republican colleague Wednesday in offering an immigration reform (search) plan that ties work to the prospect of legal residency for millions of people living in the country illegally.
The plan by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (search), D-S.D., and Sen. Chuck Hagel (search), R-Neb., also would increase spending on border security and tackle backlogs of immigrant visas that keep families separated.
The senators proposed that undocumented workers and their families living in the United States be given the chance to become "invested stakeholders" in the country by earning legal permanent residence through work.
The immigrants would have to work at least four years in the country, one of those years coming after the reforms are enacted, and to pass national security and criminal background checks. They would be required to have lived in the United States at least five years prior to passage of the legislation.
They also would be required to have paid federal taxes, know English and U.S. civics, and pay a $1,000 fine.
"We can tighten and bring common sense to a patchwork of immigration law that makes no sense," Hagel said.
Earlier this month President Bush proposed creating a temporary worker program open to foreigners and people working illegally in the United States. They could work for three-year renewable periods, but once their job is completed they would have to return home. However, they could apply for legal permanent residence from their native countries, if they qualify.
The Daschle-Hagel plan focuses more on the estimated 8 million to 10 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. It would limit the number of temporary workers who could be imported from abroad.