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February 20, 2013

Keeping immigration on track

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

The administration’s draft proposal would create a visa for those in the country illegally and allow them to become legal permanent residents within about eight years as part of a broader pathway to citizenship. The Senate group is looking at a 10-year timeline before people already in the U.S. illegally could get green cards.

While Obama’s proposal calls for more funding for securing the border, it does not make border security a pre-condition for opening a pathway to citizenship. The Senate group’s principles would require a border security trigger, though it’s unclear how they would define a secure border.

Rubio’s office has also criticized the president’s proposals for not including a guest worker program or a plan for dealing with the future flow of immigrants.

Officials say the White House has not set a deadline for when the president would choose to abandon the Senate process and send his bill to Capitol Hill. Senate lawmakers have raised the prospect of drafting a bill next month.

Hanging over the entire immigration debate in Washington is a changed political landscape that gives Hispanics more influence in national politics than ever before. Hispanics made up 10 percent of the electorate in the November presidential election and Obama won more two-thirds of their votes, causing many Republican lawmakers to rethink their opposition to immigration reform.

Immigration advocates have vowed to keep reminding GOP lawmakers of the growing political power of Hispanic voters.

“You can choose not to do it, you can choose inaction, but keep in mind that the Latino community is not going to forget,” said Eliseo Medina, an immigration advocate and labor leader at the Service Employees International Union.

“If the Senate blocks it, then get prepared for 2014,” he added, referring to next year’s congressional elections.

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Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.

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Follow Julie Pace on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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