(WASHINGTON) — Leaked draft legislation reportedly authored by the White House would be used as a backup proposal should negotiations fail in Congress over comprehensive immigration reform, administration officials said on Sunday.
White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough was asked about the USA Today story on a political talk show on Sunday morning. On ABC’s This Week, McDonough told Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl lawmakers would have to “make sure that it doesn’t have to be proposed.”
“Let’s make sure that that group up there, the ‘Gang of Eight,’ makes the good progress on these efforts as much as they say they want to,” McDonough said, referring to efforts of the Senate’s bi-partisan working group.
The president has previously stated that his administration would be prepared to offer their own bill should Congress fail to reach consensus. Some details of the draft, which has not been finalized or released to Congress, match previous White House proposals including a 2011 immigration blueprint.
The newspaper says it obtained the unfinished bill from an anonymous administration official, one not authorized to disclose the information.
Among its particulars, if passed, would be the creation of a “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” status, that could be applied for by the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented residents. The new visa would allow its holders to legally live and work in the United States, as well as leave the country for short periods of time. After eight years visa holders who passed the program would be allowed to apply for full citizenship.
Earlier this month Democratic Gang of Eight members Sen. Richard Durbin and Sen Bob Menendez indicated the group was weighing similar a proposal that would extend the wait to 10 years. But Saturday a leading Republican in the group, Sen. Marco Rubio, immediately lambasted the White House version as “dead on arrival” in Congress.
“This legislation is half baked and seriously flawed,” he said in a statement on Saturday night. “It would actually make our immigration problems worse. 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.”
Rubio said Republicans had not been consulted regarding the hypothetical legislation. On ABC, McDonough denied the claim.
“We’ve been working with all the members up there [of the Gang of Eight.] We have our staff working this very aggressively with their staffs and with the members, and we’re working this very aggressively, as you think we would with such a high priority for the country,” he said.
USA Today’s article states that immigrants who seek citizenship under the White House draft would first have to submit to biometric screening, pass a criminal background check, and pay fees for the visa. Successful bids could still be disqualified for crimes, including those that would equal one year in prison, or three separate 90-day sentences.
Also included in the document are undisclosed increases to the Border Patrol, expansion of Homeland Security technologies along the border, and the hiring of an additional 140 judges to handle immigration violations.
As of press time White House officials have refused to comment directly on the specifics of the report.
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