Immigration Reform Bill Finally Goes Public Today

| Tue Apr. 16, 2013 11:41 AM EDT

The Gang of 8 finally plans to unveil their compromise immigration reform bill today. The Washington Post provides a summary:

The measure would allow most undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country before Dec. 31, 2011, to immediately gain “registered provisional” status after paying a $500 fine and back taxes, provided they have not committed a felony or three misdemeanors.

They could then apply for permanent resident status in 10 years after paying additional fees. Three years later, they could apply for citizenship, according to the plan summary. The fastest path to full citizenship would take 13 years, according to the legislation, but it could take longer in some cases, Senate staffers said.

The bill will also require the government to implement strict new border-control measures — including up to $7 billion in new surveillance drones, fencing, border guards and workplace tracking systems — before the undocumented immigrants are granted green cards. The bill stipulates that the government must surveil 100 percent of the border and apprehend 90 percent of the people trying to enter illegally in high-risk sectors.

According to the Post, the bill includes provisions to clear the huge waiting list of foreigners who have applied for visas that would allow them to be reunited with relatives in the United States, but going forward it would cut the number of family-based visas and instead "put more emphasis on 'merit-based' work skills than on family ties."

At this point, though, I imagine the precise details don't matter too much since they'll be amended to death anyway. The real question is whether we can get anything passed at all. The fate of the almost comically weak gun bill currently working its way through Congress doesn't provide me with a lot of hope, but immigration is an issue that even a lot of Republicans would genuinely like to see addressed. So maybe Marco Rubio can give them the conservative cover they need to support a comprehensive bill. Stay tuned.