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Citizenship Will Be Key to Any Immigration Bill, Reid Says

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Speaking to reporters in Nevada, Reid was adamant that an immigration package include provisions beyond merely granting undocumented immigrants a form of legal status short of full citizenship.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said a path to citizenship for people not legally in the country will be a requirement for advancing an immigration overhaul.

The Nevada Democrat laid down the marker while speaking to reporters at his home in Searchlight, Nev., the Las Vegas Run reported Friday. Reid was adamant that an immigration package include a process that would allow some to get full citizenship.

“There will be nothing done in my Senate ... without a pathway to citizenship,” Reid said.

Many immigration reform advocates say undocumented individuals should eventually have a way to become U.S. citizens after a lengthy process that could involve background checks, demonstrated skills in English and payment of taxes, among other things.

Reid said he was monitoring of the work being done by Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., and others on developing a legislative package. Many House Republicans have concerns about including any citizenship language in an immigration package — some derisively call it amnesty. House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia is among the Republicans cool to the citizenship concept. Goodlatte’s panel would craft any House bill.

“I would not be likely to agree to a pathway to citizenship for 10, 11 million people who are illegally in the United States, but I would be willing to look at proposals that deal with the fact that they are here, and that knowing who they are, where they are and giving them some kind of legal status — probably without a pathway to citizenship — is something that is certainly worth talking about,” Goodlatte told C-SPAN earlier this week.

Reid also said that there was not much more that could be done to increase security on the southern border with Mexico, which some Republicans would like to further enhance as part of an immigration deal.

“Frankly, Mexico is doing much better economically, and that has helped the issue a lot. We can’t build a fence of 3,000 miles because no matter how high we build it, they can build a ladder taller than that fence,” Reid said, according to the Sun. “So I think we have about expended our energy on border security.”

Reid has done a series of media interviews in his home state during the Senate’s break between the opening of the 113th Congress and this weekend’s inauguration festivities, including a lengthy sit-down with Vegas PBS. While the interview reported by the Las Vegas Sun highlighted the importance of immigration on the Senate’s schedule, it also touched on other hot-button issues for the chamber.

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