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New US citizenship plan could help 200,000 Indians








Washington, Jan 29 (IANS) Even as President Barack Obama is set to announce an immigration reform plan, a bipartisan group of US senators have unveiled their own scheme offering millions of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

The compromise plan proposed Monday by a bipartisan group of eight senators would give 11 million undocumented immigrants, including an estimated 200,000 Indians, a provisional status to live and work in America.

Currently the sixth largest nationality of illegal immigrants behind Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the Philippines, Indians are also the fastest growing illegal immigrant group in the US since 2000, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The senators' plan also called for strengthening border controls, improved monitoring of visitors and cracking down on hiring undocumented workers.

Once these steps take place, undocumented immigrants already in the country could begin the process of getting permanent residence -- green cards -- as a step toward citizenship, the senators told a news conference.

"They would no longer be deported, provided they don't have a criminal record. They would no longer be harassed, they would be allowed to stay here and work," said Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.

The outline for a possible immigration bill reflects a new willingness by mainstream Republicans to compromise following their party's defeat in November, when Obama got strong backing from Latino voters, CNN said.

Obama is expected to deliver a speech in Las Vegas Tuesday to discuss comprehensive immigration legislation, which he calls a priority of his second term.

According to senior administration officials cited by CNN, the president will say the senators' plan represents progress and argue that now is the time to act.

At the White House, spokesperson Jay Carney said the president welcomed the senators' framework, calling it a "big deal" because it included an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Schumer said Monday that an initial timetable called for delivering the text of a bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee by March, and Senate passage by late spring or in the summer.

Latino activists have criticised Obama for failing to deliver on 2008 campaign promise to make immigration reform a priority of his first term.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

 
Arun Kumar

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