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November 19, 2017

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Opponents, supporters of ‘Gang of Eight’ proposal weigh in

With debate to come, both camps attempt to set tone early


J. Scott Applewhite / AP

A bipartisan group of leading senators announce that they have reached agreement on the principles of sweeping legislation to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. From left are Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. The deal covers border security, guest workers and employer verification, as well as a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country.

The U.S. Senate "Gang of Eight" that hashed out a bipartisan compromise on immigration reform had its plans to unveil the legislation delayed, understandably, by the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

But the punditry can only be held at bay so long, and with a rough outline released Tuesday and the full bill rolled out Wednesday, it didn't take long for critics and supporters alike to weigh in on the proposal that tackles everything from the 11 million immigrants in the country without legal residency to visas for high-skilled workers and border security.

Below is a collection of what people from all sides, both locally and nationally, are saying about the proposal followed by an overview of some of the key provisions. Finally, for a lighter take on the serious issue, check out the clips from "The Daily Show" treatment of the legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"This bill is a compromise. It is not the bill Democrats or Republicans would have drafted on their own. That is the nature of compromise. But it is a very strong bill that will continue to secure the borders, improve our dysfunctional legal immigration system and require 11 million people who are undocumented to register with the government, pay fines and taxes, learn English and get in the back of the line to obtain legal status."

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

"As Congress prepares to tackle the difficult challenge of modernizing the current system, every member of Congress must be honest about the need for enforcement measures in any legislation considered on the Senate floor. With Democrats and Republicans coming together and engaging in an open, transparent debate on this issue and allowing for amendments to the existing legislation, I am optimistic we can find solutions and address these issues once and for all. I look forward to reviewing this legislation and continuing this discussion in the coming days and weeks."

Peter Ashman, Las Vegas immigration attorney and spokesman for the local chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association

"I don't think the bill is going to satisfy anyone entirely. You have to negotiate and meet somewhere in the middle. Everyone is a little happy and a little unhappy. Some from the immigrant rights groups will be upset about the family category (being reduced), and I think they'll see this as too pro-business. Business will say it doesn't go far enough."

"I just came from Washington, D.C., where I met with every office in the Nevada delegation. I've never in the 22 years I've been doing this seen this much unity and desire to accomplish something of a positive nature."

Astrid Silva, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and Deferred Action recipient

"I think this is a really good place to start from, and I'm glad they are finally working on it together. I'm happy it's finally here. It appears Dreamers have a little bit of a fast track to citizenship. It has some of the strongest language we've seen in terms of the Dream Act, and that's also great to see."

Grover Norquist, president, Americans for Tax Reform

"To be sure, this legislation is not perfect. Our economy needs a more robust guest worker program to ensure a vibrant labor supply and discourage future illegal immigration. But it is a solid proposal worthy of conservative support. People are an asset, not a liability. It is time our immigration system reflects that fact, and we allow more workers to pursue the American dream."

Dan Stein, president, Federation of American Immigration Reform

"At a time when the American people are deeply concerned about their jobs, the state of our economy, and dangerous government deficits, we are likely to see the public respond negatively to this expensive and unnecessary legislation. Over the coming weeks and months, every member of Congress will have to explain to angry constituents why the interests of illegal aliens and cheap labor employers are being given precedence over the most essential interests of American workers and taxpayers. Congress will have a hard time justifying this special interest sell-out to the American people."

Al Cardenas, chairman, American Conservative Union

"The proposal put forward by the 'Gang of Eight' in the Senate puts border security first and puts legal immigration ahead of those who are here illegally, with appropriate triggers and penalty fines. It is clear that under the Obama administration none of these things will happen without legislation and that's why this proposal as described deserves a positive response. We look forward to gaining a thorough understanding of this complex legislation once it is introduced and urge the Congress to give it a proper vetting and allow robust debate though the committee process before acting.

Janet Murgia, president, National Council of La Raza

"This legislation, while not perfect, is a monumental step forward in ensuring that this nation has a fair, humane and effective 21st century immigration policy that serves our nation's best interests and works for all Americans, including families, workers and businesses. It is especially important that this legislation includes a real road map for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status and eventual citizenship, one that is true to our nation's history, our laws and our values."

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.

"The bill introduced by the bipartisan group of senators is not perfect but it takes a significant step toward the comprehensive reform that we so desperately need. It honors our country's heritage as the 'land of opportunity,' promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, providing 11 million undocumented immigrants a fair path to citizenship, protecting workers, and securing our borders. Three years after I proudly supported the Dream Act, this proposal offers young, undocumented immigrants brought here as children a chance to participate in the American dream. I am concerned, however, that it cuts diversity visas and some family visas."

Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev.

"To me, immigration reform is the civil and human rights issue of our time. Our system is broken, and unless we do something, immigrants will continue to be forced to live in the shadows, families will continue to be torn apart and our country will suffer. And the sooner we realize that this is not a Latino issue or just an Asian issue or just an African issue but an all-of-the-above issue that gets to the core of what it means to be American, the sooner we will get this done."

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Aliens vs. Senators
Daily Show Full EpisodesIndecision Political HumorThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Aliens vs. Senators - The Path to Presidentship
Daily Show Full EpisodesIndecision Political HumorThe Daily Show on Facebook

A rundown of some of the key provisions of the "Gang of Eight" immigration legislation:

• The majority of the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally would be allowed to apply for a green card after 10 years, and citizenship three years after that. They must have entered the country prior to Dec. 31, 2011, and have to pay a $500 fine (and perhaps more depending on the circumstances), pay back taxes, learn English, maintain employment and undergo a criminal background check. Dreamers — young immigrants who are pursuing their education or military service — can obtain green cards in five years and citizenship immediately after.

• The bill sets aside $3 billion to improve border security through surveillance drones, 3,500 additional customs agents and other measures. An additional $1.5 billion is set aside for fencing. There are several goals set for border security based on apprehension and surveillance coverage. If those standards are not met after five years, a border commission of governors and attorneys general from border states would have five more years to work on security.

• U.S. companies will be required to use the E-verify computer tracking system, starting with larger employers, with the provision gradually being enforced on all employers after five years. All noncitizen job applicants would be required to show a "biometric work authorization card" or "biometric green card." The government would be required to install an exit/entry tracking system at ports of entry to better track visa holders.

• The number of visas for high-skilled workers would increase from 65,000 to 110,000 annually. The cap could rise as high as 180,000. Employers who hire a large number of high-skilled workers would be required to pay higher salaries and fees.

• A new "W-visa" program would be installed for 20,000 foreigners in low-skilled jobs beginning in 2015, with the number of visas increasing to 75,000 by 2019. A new federal bureau would analyze employment data and make recommendations for annual guest-worker visa caps beginning in 2020. A "safety valve" would provide for additional visas above the yearly cap, as long as employers pay workers higher wages. Agricultural worker visas are limited to 337,000 over three years, and wages will be based on a survey of the labor market.

• The proposal provides for an unlimited number of visas per year for the foreign spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents. After the law is enacted, visas reserved for foreign brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens and married children over 30 years of age would be eliminated after 18 months. The visa diversity program, also know as the lottery, would end and a new, merit-based visa category with a point system based on family connections and work skills would be installed.

• An immigrant who was deported for immigration reasons but has no criminal record may return to the United States if he or she has a spouse or child who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. Such immigrants will be eligible for registered provisional immigrant status, the proposed program for those in the country without legal residency.

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