Senators Reveal Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Foreigners who earn Ph.Ds or master's degrees from American universities in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields would get green cards upon graduation under the new law.

All that said, employers would be mandated to use an employment verification system to determine the legal status of job applicants. Businesses that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants would also face stiffer criminal penalties under the new law. It remains unclear whether the Senate framework would keep the existing E-Verify system, which has been criticized by business groups for being inefficient, or scrap it and create a new one.

The plan would establish programs for agricultural businesses and others in that industry to hire legal, low-skilled immigrant laborers based on need. It would also provide "labor protections" as well as a path to citizenship for some. Both of these are key given that as many as 80 percent of field workers in the U.S. are undocumented, according to a 2011 Associated Press report.

Lawmakers involved in the group indicated on Sunday that they would prefer to accomplish immigration reform in one, comprehensive bill rather than a series of individual pieces of legislation.

"We are committed to a comprehensive approach," Durbin, the second ranking member of the Senate, said as much on "Fox News Sunday." McCain reiterated that sentiment on ABC's "This Week."

Still, some members of the group have voiced support for a piecemeal approach, including Rubio. But a Republican aide said that a comprehensive approach would not be a "line in the sand" for the Cuban-American senator, whom many believe could run for president in 2016.

Rubio was asked to join the group in December and recently, he released his own set of immigration reform principles. The freshman senator has pitched his plan to conservative media figures like Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly and several of his agenda items made it into the "Gang of Eight" outline, including a program to track exit visas and conditioning green cards for undocumented immigrants on border security.

Lawmakers spent Sunday preparing for the announcement. Schumer informed White House officials on the group's progress and plans for a Monday announcement, a Senate aide said.

In a statement, White House spokesman Clark Stevens said President Obama is "pleased that progress is being made with bipartisan support. At the same time, he will not be satisfied until there is meaningful reform and he will continue to urge Congress to act until that is achieved."

Schumer also spoke with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), whose panel has jurisdiction over immigration laws. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, have also been apprised of the talks for some time, aides said.

"We have the bones of this thing, now we have to put on the meat and the muscles," a Senate aide said.

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