Everybody's Getting Together on Immigration; Penalties and Billions in New Spending Being Discussed, But Probably Not Back Taxes

Legislation expected when Congress returns from a two week break


immigration reform but first more fences?

The presidents of the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO reportedly agreed Friday in principle on a guest worker program, considered a hurdle to any immigration legislation. The bipartisan Senate group crafting the immigration bill is now expected to have it ready when Congress comes back from its latest, two-week break. A House group, meanwhile, is expected to introduce a similar bill sometime after the break is over, though there are still issues in the GOP-led House effort about how much the reform will cost and what the pathway to citizenship will mean.

With the "pathway to citizenship" pretty much assured, the debate is about how long and expensive it might be, according to Politico:

The hurdles to obtaining probationary legal status under the Gang of Eight plan would be minimal — a small fine and a criminal background check — because there's an interest in making it easy for all undocumented immigrants to step forward, sources said. The Senate group initially considered forcing payment of back taxes at this point in the process, but the proposal has been difficult to craft, the sources said.

The next step — a decade-long wait for legal permanent residence — wouldn't be as simple.

First, the border would need to be designated as secure. That's a step that President Barack Obama and immigrant advocates have opposed because they're concerned that politics would keep the certification from ever happening, leaving 11 million immigrants in a second-class probationary status.

Then there are the costs of obtaining a green card. Under the Senate plan, the price tag will reach into the "thousands," according to one source, who points out that applicants would have at least a decade to save for the penalties and fees. These fines would help offset the cost of the bill, which is expected to include billions of dollars in new spending for border security alone.

What would a bipartisan bill in Congress be without penalties and new spending? Amnesty doesn't have to be that hard.