Obama immigration bill draft said to emerge

The Obama administration has prepared a draft immigration overhaul plan that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain green cards within eight years, according to a Saturday report in USA Today.

The newspaper reported that it had obtained the draft from an anonymous administration source. The White House has not confirmed the details to be correct.

USA Today reported that the draft proposal would create a new visa open to the nation's estimated 11 million illegal residents.

The "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa -- which would allow a holder to work and travel -- could be obtained after an applicant undergoes a criminal background check, gets fingerprinted and pays fees.

After eight years under this new visa, the immigrant could then apply to become a legal permanent resident, as green card holders are officially known. Currently, most green card holders can apply to become full U.S. citizens after five years.

The White House is contemplating new requirements for formerly illegal immigrants to get the green card, including paying back taxes and English and civics tests currently only required for citizenship applicants.

The draft also increases funding for Border Patrol agents, adds immigration judges and expands the use of the E-Verify system by which employers confirm the legal status of prospective and current employees.

The draft plan did not flesh out how to deal with future immigration, USA Today reported.

It has been widely known that Democrats want illegal immigrants to eventually be able to become full citizens. The exact balance of rights and responsibilities Obama would seek had so far not been known.

A secretive House group is said to be close to its own proposal. Sources say the group includes Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Xavier Becerra (Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), and Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), John Carter (Texas) and Sam Johnson (Texas).

A Senate "Gang of Eight" late last month released its own immigration framework with a path to citizenship

The group consists of Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“It’s a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress,” Rubio said in a statement late Saturday.

“President Obama’s leaked immigration proposal is disappointing to those of us working on a serious solution,” Rubio said. “The President’s bill repeats the failures of past legislation. It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally, and does nothing to address guest workers or future flow, which serious immigration experts agree is critical to preventing future influxes of illegal immigrants. 

“If actually proposed, the President’s bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come.”

--This report was updated at 10:35 p.m.