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Immigration bill to boost security on all of border with Mexico

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 7:21 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Bipartisan immigration legislation being written in the Senate would require surveillance of 100 percent of the border with Mexico and apprehension of 90 percent of people trying to cross the border in certain high-risk areas, a person familiar with the proposals said on Wednesday.

People living here illegally could begin to get green cards in 10 years, but only if a new southern border security plan is in place, employers have adopted mandatory electronic verification of their workers' legal status and a new electronic exit system is operating at airports and seaports.

The person provided the information on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are private.

The contours of the tough new border security plans emerged as senators moved closer to presenting sweeping legislation within days that would put some 11 million immigrants living here illegally on a path to citizenship and would allow tens of thousands of high- and low-skilled workers into the country on new visa programs, in addition to securing the border.

Lawmakers and aides said all the major elements were complete or nearly so. A final deal was pending on a new visa for agriculture workers, and there were small details to be dealt with on visas for high-tech workers, but Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said it was not enough to hold up the bill.

“We are closer now than we have been in 25 years for serious immigration reform,” Durbin told reporters on Wednesday after he and other Democrats in the Senate negotiating group briefed members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “This president is behind it, and there is a strong, growing bipartisan effort in the Senate to support it. We hope that the House will do the same.”

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of pro-immigration activists massed outside the Capitol and in cities across the country to push Congress to act. They waved American flags and carried signs reading, “Reform immigration for America now!”

The border security piece of the legislation is critical to getting support from Republicans, but some Democrats have opposed making a path to citizenship contingent on border security. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the new requirements would not impede citizenship.

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