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Lawmakers Reach Middle Ground on Immigration

posted on May 18, 2007

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. U.S. consumers paid more for groceries and gasoline last month, but price gains elsewhere were muted helping to paint a more stable picture of inflation.

**The Labor Department reported this week said its Consumer Price Index rose four-tenths-of-one-percent in April. **But core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, advanced only half as much.

**The news provided more fuel the rally on Wall Street where the Dow surpassed the 13,500 mark this week en route to yet another record close.

**Still, there are some rough spots in the U.S. economy. The Commerce Department reported this week that April New Housing Starts fell by their largest amount in 17 years.

**And with monthly unemployment figures on the rise, many analysts believe the slowing economy is taking a toll on the job market.

Regardless of the number of jobs available, America still is the land of opportunity for an estimated 12 million immigrants who are working in the U.S. illegally. This week, a group of U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle announced a plan to overhaul federal immigration laws. The president called the proposal a "much-needed solution" to illegal immigration, but critics labeled the plan as amnesty.

Lawmakers Reach Middle Ground on Immigration

Democrats and Republicans claimed victory this week on a plan to overhaul U.S. immigration policy. After lengthy negotiations, key lawmakers and members of the Bush Administration hammered out a reform plan that develops a guest worker program and creates a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

The proposed agreement would allow immigrants to obtain a so-called "Z" visa, and after paying fees and a $5,000 fine, they could then obtain permanent residency. But the application process could take up to 13 years to finalize.

President Bush: "It's important for people not to give up, no matter how hard it looks from a legislative perspective. It's important that we get a bill done."

President Bush, seen touring the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this year, hailed this week's agreement as an "historic moment" and said he looks forward to signing the bill into law.

A key breakthrough for immigration overhaul came after negotiators developed a new green card "point system." Under the new classification method, immigrants would be prioritized first by their education and skill level with less emphasis on family connections.

Agriculture held a prominent position in the immigration agreement. In a deal struck by the bipartisan team of Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Larry Craig of Idaho, a measure called "Ag Jobs" would create a five-year pilot program designed to legalize migrant farm workers.

Sen. Arlen Specter emphasized that the plan is not amnesty and will "restore the rule of law." But fellow Senate Republican Charles Grassley criticized the closed-door negotiations and took issue with new immigration enforcement language in the proposal.

According to Grassley, the plan would give the Department on Homeland Security "unlimited, open-ended access to all Social Security data including confidential tax return information." Grassley and his fellow Senators will begin floor debate on the immigration plan next week.


Tags: Congress government immigration jobs news reform