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Leahy Hopeful For Meaningful Immigration Reform Legislation

Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s hopeful that Congress can pass meaningful immigration reform legislation this year. Leahy says the proposal needs to balance stronger border security measures with a plan to offer undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

A bi partisan group of 8 U.S. Senators has been working on an immigration package for several months.  The specific plan is expected to be unveiled this week and the general outline of the proposal was released this weekend.

It establishes a path to citizenship to an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, if they agree to pay a fine, wait ten years to get a green card, and then apply for formal citizenship.

The plan links this process to the implementation of a verification system to document the legal status of all employees and it calls for additional border security measures to be put into place.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, Leahy will play an important role in the debate over this legislation and he’s scheduled a public hearing this week on the bill.

Leahy says it’s important to balance the path to citizenship with a reasonable plan to tighten the U.S. - Mexico border.

“Should someone who is here illegally have to pay a fine learn English, follow all the procedures to get citizenship ? Certainly, nobody has a problem with that,” said Leahy. “But I’m not going to set up artificial barriers and say oh unless everything is perfect we’re not going to have citizenship. That makes no sense at all.”

Leahy says he wants to be certain that the proposed border security measures aren’t used as way to block the citizenship provisions in the bill

“The devil’s always in the details. The idea’s that we have to spend so much money that nobody gets across the border that’s never going to happen,” said Leahy. “There’s always going to be people going through and I can think of far better ways that to spend huge amounts of money. Can we have a secure border ? Certainly.” 

Leahy says the chances of Congress passing an immigration reform bill are better now than they have been for years.

“I think there is possibility to get something. I didn’t feel this way in the last few years this year I feel there is a possibility but not if we take forever.”

Under the proposed legislation, undocumented immigrants would not be allowed to apply for any federal benefit programs until they become citizens.