WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, under pressure to keep a campaign promise to revamp U.S. immigration policy, embraced a “promising, bipartisan framework” on Thursday offered by two senior senators.
Obama said the proposal by Democrat Charles Schumer and Republican Lindsey Graham, which features a new identification card for U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want a job, “can and should be the basis for moving us forward.”
In an article posted online by The Washington Post, Schumer and Graham wrote “our immigration system is badly broken” and outlined a four-point plan to fix it.
In addition to the high-tech identification cards, they called for: bolstering border security, creating a new process for admitting temporary workers, and implementing a “tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.”
While Obama has scrambled the past year to overhaul the healthcare system, immigration reform advocates complain he’s failed to advance their issue.
In 2007, Congress rejected Republican President George W. Bush’s plan to revamp immigration policy — a heated issue that divided Americans in advance of the 2008 congressional and presidential elections.
Obama promised during his 2008 White House campaign to promptly tackle immigration, but critics complain that he has failed to do so.
Obama met last week with Schumer and Graham, and the White House said a sweeping agreement dealing with as many as 12 million illegal immigrants was unlikely to get through Congress without support from both parties. Such a measure would have difficulty advancing before November’s congressional election.
A key provision in the Schumer-Graham proposal is a new high-tech, fraud-proof card that would feature a biological identifier, like fingerprints.
Employers would be required to swipe the card through a machine to confirm the person’s identity and immigration status. Those who fail to comply would face fines, and repeat offenders could end up in prison.
Schumer and Graham also called for increased border patrols and bolstered domestic enforcement.
For the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States, the senators suggested a path forward.
“They would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society by performing community service and paying fines and back taxes,” they wrote in the Post.
“These people would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence,” the two senators added.
The framework makes no mention of requiring illegal immigrants to return to their homeland and reapply for admission to the United States.
“Senators Schumer and Graham have produced a promising, bipartisan framework,” Obama said in his statement.
“My administration will be consulting further with the senators on the details ... but a critical next step will be to translate their framework into a legislative proposal, and for Congress to act at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Editing by David Alexander and Chris Wilson