Senators unveil new comprehensive immigration bill, President Obama supports it
NBC — El Pasoans of different faiths packed St. Pius X Church tonight to pray and sing for immigration reform, and their prayers may soon be answered.
"Even though we all come from different faiths, different backgrounds, ultimately we are all the same," said Edward Enriquez, a parishioner at the church.
After months of bipartisan negotiation, Democrats and Republicans seem to have reached a deal for comprehensive immigration reform. NBC News has learned President Obama expressed support for the new bill today.
"While he certainly might not agree with every part of it, he was very supportive of the bill we have put together. And simply wants to make sure we keep moving it along and get something done," said Senator Chuck Schumer.
Today, Senators John McCain and Chuck Schumer briefed the President on the bill at the White House. They say the legislation represents a compromise between both parties that keeps the interests of business, labor, families, and undocumented immigrants in this country in mind.
"We appreciate the President's support and we believe that's important as we move forward with the process. The President also agrees that this is the beginning of a process not the end. That we will have hearings, that we will have amendments, we will have floor debates. But I am confident that at the end of the day we will have a bill to the President's desk," said Senator John McCain.
NBC News has learned several key aspects of the plan.
If you're an undocumented immigrant who has lived continually in the US before December 31st, 2011, haven't been convicted of a felony or three or more misdemeanors, and you haven't voted illegally, you will be eligible for what's called a "Registered Provisional Immigrant" status or RPI. The status will allow you to travel freely and work for any employer. But before you can gain the status, you must pay a $500 fine and any back taxes you owe to the IRS.
After 10 years, these immigrants would be eligible to earn a green card if they've learned English and paid an additional fine. After 3 years with a green card, they could then apply for citizenship. Younger people brought to America as children, the so-called "Dreamers," would be eligible to apply for a green card within 5 years.
The provisional immigration status doesn't begin until Homeland Security notifies Congress that upgraded border security and fencing strategies are operational and an employment verification system is working.
More than $4.5 billion will be spent on beefing up security along the southern border.
In light of the tragic events in Boston, the news conference scheduled to announce the bill was canceled.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the bill beginning Friday.
At St. Pius X Church, that's a dream come true.
"We are all one faith under God and I think working together we can have a better world," said Leticia Montoya, another parishioner at the church.