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Immigration reform 101: How would Senate plan actually work?

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Gary Cameron/Reuters

(Read caption) From right to left, Sens. Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois, Charles Schumer (D) of New York, and John McCain (R) of Arizona listen to a question at a news conference on comprehensive immigration reform at the US Capitol in Washington Monday.

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On Monday a bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled a proposed overhaul of the US immigration system. The plan includes both increased border enforcement and an eventual path to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country. Yet some important details of the effort remain undefined. According to what we know now, how would the immigration overhaul work?

We’ll give you a stripped-down, “Immigration 101” version of the plan so you can follow debate on the issue in the days and weeks ahead.

First, the senatorial plan calls for devoting increased resources to what it calls “the basic governmental function of securing our borders." Specifically, it calls for increasing the use of drones and other electronic surveillance equipment, improving radio interoperability, and in general raising the number of agents at and between US border crossings.

“The purpose is to substantially lower the number of successful illegal border crossings while continuing to facilitate commerce," says the proposal.

Second, the plan calls for completion of a system capable of tracking whether people who enter the United States via temporary visas have left the country before their visas expire. Most surveys find that overstays range from 31 to 57 percent of those in the country illegally, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Third, it would establish a commission of Southwestern governors, attorneys general, and community leaders “to monitor the progress of securing our border and to make a recommendation regarding when the bill’s security measures outlined in the legislation are completed."

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