The White House and several key senators announced last week an agreement has been reached on an immigration overhaul that would strengthen the U.S.-Mexico border and grant quick legal status to millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States. The plan includes a temporary worker program and a separate program for agricultural workers.
The agreement came after weeks of closed-door negotiations that brought both parties together with President Bush’s officers. According to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Bush declared the deal a “historic moment” and said he is looking forward to signing it into law. He said the proposal would “help enforce our borders, but equally importantly, it’ll treat people with respect.”
“This proposal delivers an immigration system that is secure, productive, orderly and fair,” stated Bush. “The plan would bring undocumented workers already in this country out of the shadows without amnesty and without animosity.”
The proposed plan would allow illegal immigrants to obtain a “Z visa” after paying a $5,000 fine among other fees. This would allow them to apply for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of households would have to return to their home countries first.
A temporary guest worker program would require workers to return home after work periods of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status. They may renew their guest worker visas twice but must leave for a year in between each time.
Family connections alone would no longer be sufficient in qualifying for a green card, with the exception of spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.