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L.A. Now Live: Amnesty debate looms over immigration bill

L.A. Now Live: Amnesty debate looms over immigration bill
Juan Manuel Niebla, who came to Los Angeles from Mexico with a dollar in his pocket, worked at a medical parts factory, learned English and bought a home in Highland Park, all prior to receiving his green card in the 1986 amnesty. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Four times as many people are potentially eligible for legal residency under a current bill proposing mass legalization. The specifics of the current proposal are different from President Ronald Reagan’s in 1986.

Join us at 9 a.m. as we discuss the bill, its legal implications and what it means for immigrants with Times reporter Cindy Chang.

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The global economy is different, and the immigrants themselves are different, hailing from South Korea, as well as Mexico, and fanning out from traditional enclaves, like Los Angeles, to populate small towns across America.

Still, the reams of post-1986 studies offer an indication of what might happen if millions of immigrants receive legal status.

The 855-page Senate bill, currently in committee, contains a path to citizenship taking at least 13 years, with provisional status to be granted almost immediately to those who were in the country before 2012.

Proponents avoid calling it amnesty, even as they tout the moral imperative of bringing 11 million people out of the shadows. Opponents wield the word as a weapon, decrying amnesty as a free pass to lawbreakers that should not have been doled out in 1986, nor again in 2013.

Both camps trot out economic projections. Higher immigrant wages will pad tax coffers and boost the domestic product by billions of dollars, one argument goes. Opponents predict a drain on public funds as newly legalized immigrants apply for government benefits, and harm to American workers as immigrants get better jobs.

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