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Immigration Bill: Senate Group 'Close'

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Labor unions and farm groups also have been negotiating an agreement to create new visas for agricultural workers but have yet to settle on the number of foreign workers who would be admitted under the program and what they would be paid.

Even as the group’s members remained tight-lipped, other congressmen were vocal. Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced a border security bill along with House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., on Tuesday that he said would require the Department of Homeland Security to come up with a way to gauge how secure the border is. “They currently have no metric,” Cornyn said. “They have no measuring stick, no yardstick to measure border security.”

Cornyn said he hoped his proposal would find a home in the comprehensive bill. “I hope the ‘gang of eight’ and others will be informed by that bill,” he said. “I know they have similar frustrations with the Department of Homeland Security.”

Advocates also are mobilizing for a Capitol Hill rally Wednesday, at which they will demand that the roughly 11 million undocumented people be put on a path to citizenship. They will also demand that the Senate bill make it easier for family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to live and work in the United States. Right now, backlogs force some people to wait more than two decades before securing a green card, a process that advocates say unnecessarily tears apart families.

Family reunification visas have long been a priority for Sens. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., both of whom are part of the Senate immigration group.

But the group is likely to replace some family visas with employer-sponsored green cards, Graham said. Business groups have been clamoring for new visas for years, saying they are unable to fill high-tech jobs with only U.S. workers.

“There will be an economic-based immigration system replacing the family-based immigration system,” he said. “There will be a family component but no more chain migration.”

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