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Immigration reform 101: Should illegal immigrants be offered citizenship path?

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The so-called Gang of Eight bipartisan Senate immigration proposals, for instance, would require individuals here illegally to register with the government, pay a fine and back taxes, and undergo a background check. In return, they’d get probationary legal status – and the opportunity to stand in the back of the line to get eventual US citizenship. Everyone who’s already in that line, legally, would get their opportunity first.

“Our purpose is to ensure that no one who has violated America’s immigration laws will receive preferential treatment as they relate to those individuals who have complied with the law,” states the proposal, backed by Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona, among others.

This would be contingent on tighter border security – a linkage Mr. Obama and many other Democrats oppose.

Many in the GOP oppose this approach, however. They label it “amnesty” and a draw for future illegal immigrants, who will come to the US believing that eventually they will receive similar treatment.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R) of Idaho, for instance, argued at the House hearing that, in his years serving as an immigration lawyer, he has talked to thousands of people living here illegally, and that what they want is not citizenship per se, but to come out of the shadows, live and work legally, and be treated with dignity.

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