A promised path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally may leave out hundreds of thousands of them.
Bipartisan Senate legislation would make legalization and, ultimately, citizenship available only to those who arrived in the U.S. before Dec. 31, 2011, according to a Senate aide with knowledge of the proposals. Anyone who came after that date would be subject to deportation.
The bill, expected to be introduced next week, also would require applicants to document that they were in the country before the cutoff date, have a clean criminal record and show enough employment or financial stability that they’re likely to stay off welfare, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposals had not been made public.
Although illegal immigration to the U.S. has been dropping, tens of thousands of people still arrive annually, so the cutoff date alone could exclude a large number of people. The aide said hundreds of thousands could be excluded overall. That came as a disappointment to immigrant-rights groups that had been hoping that anyone here as of the date of enactment of the bill could be able to become eligible for citizenship.
“The goal is to deal with the 11 million folks who are here without status, and the wider road that we can create for them to get on that path that they can ultimately get residency and citizenship, the better,” Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, said Friday. “A cutoff date that lops off all of 2012 and whatever part of 2013, that’s going to be at least a couple hundred thousand people. It’s not ideal.”