WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of leading senators has reached agreement on the principles for a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in this country.
The deal, to be announced today, also covers border security, non-citizen or “guest” workers and employer verification of immigration status.
Although thorny details remain to be negotiated and success is far from certain, the development heralds the start of what could be the most significant effort in years toward overhauling the nation’s inefficient patchwork of immigration laws.
President Barack Obama also is committed to enacting comprehensive immigration legislation and will travel to Nevada on Tuesday to lay out his vision, which is expected to overlap with the Senate effort.
Passage of legislation by the full Democratic-controlled Senate is far from assured, but the tallest hurdle could come in the House, which is dominated by conservative Republicans who’ve shown little interest in immigration reform.
According to documents obtained by The Associated Press, the senators will call for accomplishing four goals:
Creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already here, contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people here on visas.
Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university.
Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire undocumented immigrants in the future, including requiring prospective workers to verify legal status and identity through a non-forgeable electronic system.
Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn’t recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.