President Barack Obama is preparing immigration reform that would involve a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, according to new reports this week. (Photo : Reuters)
President Obama's previous pledge to enact comprehensive immigration reform looks to be gaining steam. The Obama administration is reportedly planning to push an extensive overhaul in immigration to Congress that would include a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants.
While no official plan has been formally announced, that could change as President Obama is scheduled to hold his State of the Union address early in February.
The plan is expected to provide a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., senior administration officials and lawmakers told the Times, provided they meet certain conditions. Those conditions include fines, paying back taxes and other such stipulations that qualifying immigrants would need to meet before earning permanent residency in the country.
In addition, the Obama administration's proposal would impose an e-Verify-like program across the country for employers to verify the legal status of all newly hired workers. New visas would also be added to allow highly-skilled immigrants to stay in the U.S. and a guest worker program for low-wage immigrants would also be implemented down the road.
The New York Times reported Sunday that President Obama and Senate Democrats are planning to propose a comprehensive bill on immigration, as opposed to Republican efforts to make the overhaul into smaller pieces that would address migrant farmworkers, young undocumented immigrants or highly-skilled foreign workers.
Already, there are top politicians who are supporting President Obama's immigration plan.
"It's an economic imperative," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "If we bring these people, 11 million people, from out of the dark and into the light, it's about a $1.5 trillion impact to the U.S. economy."
Villaraigosa himself has been in support of several immigrant-friendly policies in Los Angeles, including granting specialized ID cards to undocumented immigrants that would allow them to use ATMs and public libraries, among other city services.
"This is so important now to both parties that neither the fiscal cliff nor guns will get in the way," U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer D-N.Y., told the New York Times.
While gun control and other issues are on the forefront of Washington's mind, immigration reform took a huge spotlight after a record turnout of Latino voters, particularly in swing states such as Florida and Colorado, cast their ballots for President Obama in November during the presidential election, largely rejecting GOP candidate Mitt Romney, who favored stringent immigration laws.
The election, pro immigration proponents say, was a signal that Hispanic voters want answers on immigration reform now.
"Republicans must demonstrate a reasoned approach to start to rebuild their relationship with Latino voters," Clarissa Martinez de Castro, the director of immigration policy at the National Council of La Raza, told the Times. "Democrats must demonstrate they can deliver on a promise."
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is also working on an immigration solution, but, like other Republicans, wants to address immigration in step-by-step bills.
In an interview last week with the Wall Street Journal, Rubio said his plan would allow undocumented immigrants to gain temporary status and eventually apply for permanent residency.
Rubio also criticized the president's decision to give two-year reprieves from deportation and offer work permits to young immigrants, saying that President Obama "poisoned the well for people willing to take on this issue."
But with the demographics of the country changing rapidly, there are those within the GOP that see the need to become more welcoming of Latinos by addressing the immigration system's glitches.
The GOP needs to "take a very hard look at itself," said Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, in an NBC "Meet the Press" interview Sunday.
"If the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they are going to be in trouble," Powell said.