A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has unveiled a plan for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for those currently in the country illegally.
One of the eight senators, Charles Schumer, described it as a tough but fair plan for citizenship. At a Washington news conference Monday, the New York Democrat said President Barack Obama is pleased with the compromise.
Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida, said lawmakers have an obligation to address the situation of the 11 million people in the country illegally while being fair to those seeking citizenship though legal channels.
The senators say the U.S. immigration system is "broken." They released their proposal ahead of President Obama's Tuesday speech urging action on immigration reform.
Under the plan, illegal immigrants would register with the government, pass a background check, pay fines and back taxes, and complete other steps to earn a probationary status that would allow them to legally live and work in the United States. They would then be placed at the back of the line for those seeking a so-called green card as a permanent legal resident.
The plan includes exceptions for those who entered the country as children, as well as for agricultural workers who the senators say play an important role in maintaining the nation's food supply.
The new plan also includes increased immigration enforcement.
There is also a provision to create an effective system for employers to verify that workers are legal. Another system would be set up to ensure those who enter the country on short-term visas leave when their approved time is up.
In addition to senators Schumer and Rubio, the others who worked on the proposal are Democrats Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez and Michael Bennet, and Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Jeff Flake. They represent some of the states most affected by illegal migration, including Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and New York.
Their proposal says the 11 million undocumented immigrants came "almost exclusively for jobs."
The plan would allow employers to hire lower-skilled workers for positions that Americans are unavailable or unwilling to take. It would also give permanent resident status to those who earn a doctorate or master's degree in science, engineering or math from a U.S. university, in a bid to retain more "future innovators and entrepreneurs."
The senators also want to reduce backlogs in family and employment visas, saying those efforts would help future immigrants see a legal path as the only route to entering the United States.