The LA Times reported today that the Senate version of the Immigration Bill is gathering steam, as eight senators working together to write a bipartisan bill to overhaul immigration laws announced today that they have agreed on a pathway for undocumented immigrants to achieve legal status. The latest draft of the senate bill creates a probationary status that allows undocumented residents to remain in the United States and work. Once the probationary period is over, undocumented persons may apply to become permanent residents and, eventually, citizens. To be eligible for probationary status, one must register with the Department of Homeland Security. Applicants must have a clean criminal record, demonstrate proof of payment of federal taxes since working in the United States or pay all federal back taxes that are due, and pay a still to be determined fine. Once probationary status is granted, probationary residents will be allowed to work, but will be barred from receiving any federal public aid or benefits including food stamps and Medicaid. There are many factors still undecided, such as how long probationary status will last and the wait could be as long as 10 years. Although it is far from being a sure thing – the latest draft of the immigration reform bill gives millions of undocumented residents hope of legalization and a path to citizenship that would be impossible under current immigration laws.
Nothing happens quickly in Washington, and there have been many previous versions of immigration reform bills that have failed. But the results of the last election that showed the Republicans clearly need Latino support has lead to bipartisan support of immigration reform, and this particular bill draft give rise to optimism that we have lacked in the past. Watch this blog for updates as this bill makes its way though the legislative process.