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House GOP leaders may let young illegal immigrants be citizens

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Gannett News Service
Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 9:12 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders announced immigration reform guidelines on Thursday that offer citizenship to some young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children but provide “no special pathway to citizenship” for their parents or other undocumented adult immigrants.

Undocumented immigrants who came here as adults would be able to gain legal status that would allow them to remain in the United States without fear of deportation, according to a one-page “Standards for Immigration Reform.” It is not clear if they would be barred from ever becoming citizens or could somehow earn their way to citizenship through traditional channels, such as being sponsored by an employer or a relative who is a U.S. citizen.

The standards were revealed at a House Republican retreat on the eastern shore of Maryland. They offer the first concrete look at what GOP leaders are thinking as they begin their efforts to persuade rank-and-file House Republicans to take up immigration reform this year.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who helped craft the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed last year by the Senate, said he was encouraged by House leaders' efforts.

The preamble to the list of standards reasserts the GOP leaders' stance that they will not consider the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate.

Here is a look at some of what the Republican leaders are proposing:

• Young immigrants: Undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children should not be punished for their parents' mistakes. Those who meet certain eligibility requirements and serve honorably in the U.S. military or obtain a college degree should be able to become legal residents and citizens.

• Legal status: There would be no “special path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants who entered the United States illegally or overstayed their visas. They could earn legal status and stay in the United States if they “admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).”

• Border security: Border security and interior enforcement of immigration laws must come first. The results must be verifiable. There would be a “zero tolerance policy” for people who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas after reform is enacted.

• Visas: The guidelines call for a fully functioning entry-exit system that uses biometric technology to verify people's identities, track fraud and find visitors who overstay their visas.

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