An immigration plan touted by its supporters as a bipartisan compromise to make sweeping changes to the immigration law of the United States failed a test vote on Friday in the U.S. Senate.
Opponents of the plan called it nothing more than a disguised "amnesty" program.
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions has called the compromise plan a "dead horse" that people are starting to smell.
Officials described a complex series of provisions:
- Illegal immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years could receive legal status after meeting several conditions, including payment of a $2,000 fines and any back taxes, clearing a background check and learning English. After six more years, they could apply for permanent residency without leaving the United States. They could seek citizenship five years later.
- Illegal immigrants in the country for between two and five years could obtain a temporary work visa after reporting to a border point of entry. Aides referred to this as "touch base and return," since people covered would know in advance they would be readmitted to the United States.
- Officials said it could take as long as 13 to 14 years for some illegal immigrants to gain citizenship. It part, that stems from an annual limit of 450,000 on green cards, which confer legal permanent residency and are a precursor to citizenship status.
- Illegal immigrants in the United States for less than two years would be required to leave the country and apply for re-entry alongside anyone else seeking to emigrate.
Separately, the legislation provides a new program for 1.5 million temporary agriculture industry workers over five years.
It also includes provisions for employers to verify the legal status of workers they hire, but it was not clear what sanctions, if any, would apply to violators.