Millions of illegal immigrants would be put on a pathway to legal status and eventually have the chance to apply for citizenship in exchange for paying fines and taxes, under the terms of the immigration overhaul being unveiled this week.
According to an outline of the bill released to Fox News late Monday night, the massive legalization program would be twinned with a multibillion-dollar effort to boost border security.
It would require the Homeland Security Department to create and launch plans for border security and fencing before illegal immigrants can enter a provisional status. This could happen as early as six months after enactment of the bill.
They would remain in that provisional status for 10 years, able to work legally but barred from federal benefits like welfare or health care. After 10 years they could seek green cards conferring permanent legal status, provided the security and fencing plans have been “substantially” carried out. After another three years, those immigrants could petition for citizenship.
In total, the bill creates a minimum 13-year path to citizenship for up to 11 million illegal immigrants, costing them each $2,000 in fines plus additional fees. Applicants would have to meet other criteria as well in order to qualify.
It’s unclear whether the border security “triggers” will be enough to satisfy skeptical lawmakers. The bill outline establishes numeric goals for border apprehensions, but it’s unclear how closely meeting — or missing — those goals is tied to the pathway to legal status.