What's in the New Immigration-Reform Plan

Niraj Chokshi

It may just be a framework, but the bipartisan immigration-reform plan isn’t all broad-strokes proposals.

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The most detailed part of the four-pronged plan, offered up by a group of eight senators, carves out a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Here’s what that could entail:

1. Creating stronger borders. Under the plan, creating a path to citizenship is contingent on strengthening border protections using “the latest technology, infrastructure, and personnel.” That would be achieved by:


  • Increasing the number of unmanned drones along the border.
  • Increasing the number of border-patrol agents.
  • Improving tracking of whether visitors on temporary visas have left the country as required.
  • Creating a commission of governors, attorneys general, and community leaders from the Southwest to weigh in on implementation of these security measures.

2. Registering with the government. As those border protections are put in place, undocumented immigrants could register with the government to begin becoming citizens. To get “probationary” status, which would let them live and work legally in the U.S., undocumented immigrants would have to commit to:

  • Passing a background check.
  • Paying a fine and back taxes.
  • Getting no access to federal public benefits until granted full citizenship.

3. Moving to the back of the line. Undocumented immigrants would start at the end of the line, meaning they wouldn’t receive a green card until everyone already legally in line gets theirs. The remaining hurdles to citizenship could include:

  • Another background check.
  • Paying taxes.
  • Learning English and civics.
  • Proving that they are and have been employed in the United States, although the bipartisan plan also proposes making it harder for undocumented immigrants to get jobs in the U.S. in the first place.

Children and agricultural workers would be subject to different rules to gain citizenship.

The plan’s three other pillars were described broadly. First, it would make getting citizenship easier for immigrants who receive a Ph.D. or master’s degree in the United States in science, technology, engineering, or math. Second, the plan would create a “tough” system to verify the immigration status of potential employees, making it easier for employers to know whether they are hiring a legal immigrant. Finally, the plan would make it easier for employers to hire immigrants for low-skilled jobs that they can’t fill with Americans.

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