WASHINGTON — Key senators and the White House reached agreement today on an immigration overhaul that would grant quick legal status to millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. and fortify the border.
The plan would create a temporary worker program to bring new arrivals to the
The compromise came after weeks of painstaking closed-door negotiations that brought the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative Republicans together with President Bush's Cabinet officers to produce a highly complex measure that carries heavy political consequences.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said he expects Bush to endorse the agreement.
The accord sets the stage for what promises to be a bruising battle next week in the Senate on one of Bush's top non-war priorities.
The key breakthrough came when negotiators struck a bargain on a so-called "point system" that would for the first time prioritize immigrants' education and skill level over family connections in deciding how to award green cards.
The draft bill "gives a path out of the shadows and toward legal status for those who are currently here" illegally, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
A spokesman for Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., one of his party's key players in the talks, confirmed that the group had reached agreement.
The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a "Z visa" and — after paying fees and a $5,000 fine — ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first.
They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the
A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called "triggers" had been activated.
Those workers would have to return home after work stints of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status or ever become
Democrats had pressed instead for guest workers to be permitted to stay and work indefinitely in the
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