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August 4, 2015

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Immigration in brief: News from Capitol Hill and elsewhere as immigration reform moves forward

Right now immigration is more at the forefront of public policy discussion than at any time since the debate over immigration reform in 2007.

U.S. Senate and House of Representatives committees are putting together separate reform proposals, organizations from all sides are busy compiling surveys and reports about various immigration topics, and even news organizations are looking inward at how they cover the topic.

Here is a roundup of the latest in immigration news.

Details begin to emerge about proposals: The bipartisan Senate proposal is expected out next week. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported the proposal would contain a revised agricultural worker program. An estimated 50 percent, or more, of the nation's farmworkers are living in the country illegally. Farmers claim the process for applying for visas for agricultural workers is too slow. Under the Senate proposal, farm workers in the country already would have a quicker pathway to legal status than other immigrants here illegally. Also, a possible new visa program would make it easier for foreign workers to come to the United States. However, different factions in the agricultural industry are arguing over the total number of visas and wage regulations.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the bipartisan House proposal would contain three different pathways to legalized status. Young immigrants without legal residency status and agricultural workers would have an expedited path to legal status. A second group with family or employment ties that would allow them to apply for legal status would have some previous barriers waived but may still have to return to their country of origin to apply for legal status. The application would require paying a fine and back taxes. The remaining immigrants living in the country illegally would be required to apply for a "provisional" status that would allow them to live, work and travel in the country legally.

Small-business poll on immigration reform: In a poll commissioned by the American Sustainable Business Council and the Main Street Alliance, more than 60 percent of respondents, regardless of party affiliation, favored an immigration reform package that included a pathway to citizenship for immigrants already living in the country illegally. Overall, 67 percent of the 515 small-business owners surveyed wanted a pathway to citizenship, with 82 percent of Democratic owners favoring a path to legal status and 62 percent of Republican owners supporting the pathway to citizenship.

Associated Press takes "illegal immigrant" out of its vocabulary: On Tuesday, the Associated Press announced it was amending its "AP Stylebook" entry for "illegal immigration" and would use the term "illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant." Most news publications, including the Sun, and many broadcasting entities adhere to the usage recommendations included in the stylebook, so the new practice is expected to be observed widely.

The use of the term "illegal immigrant" has been debated for years. Opponents say it is often inaccurate and stigmatizes a whole class of people. The proponents of the term say it is the best phrase to describe the population in general and other terms such as "undocumented" also are inaccurate, politically charged euphemisms. Not surprisingly, those on both sides of the issues came out to both applaud and disparage the move.

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