Reform in reach: Finally, an immigration solution may be at hand

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Liftoff may be near in Washington on meaningful immigration reform. The Senate's "gang of eight" says it has nearly brokered a deal after months of work.

The group consists of Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Chuck Schumer of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

Mr. McCain and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts co-wrote a sweeping bill in 2006 that failed to pass. The key element in the Senate plan this time is a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. Mr. Rubio wants to call it a path to a green card -- a work permit as a precursor to citizenship.

The proposal would provide a new class of visas for low-skilled workers, secure the nation's borders, crack down on employers who violate the law and improve legal immigration, along with creating the pathway to legal residence for the undocumented.

The goal is to get a bill before the Senate this week or next. Aides worked on the package Monday evening, then senators were to meet again Tuesday. The latest issue is the provision on H-1B visas, which go to skilled foreigners, often in high-tech industries.

It takes 60 votes to beat a filibuster in the Senate, which includes 45 Republicans. The "gang of eight" will not get 20 Republican votes for the bill, but it could get 10, which should be enough.

Even if it passes, the bill could run aground in the House of Representatives, which opposes all things progressive. But a House version has been in the works for a year. Although it is less comprehensive, it also includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are already here.

Polls show a national consensus on immigration reform, but it still will require some selling. If a bill passes this year, Americans will owe Sen. Kennedy a posthumous debt.



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