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Immigration Provisions, Amendments

Key elements of the bipartisan immigration measure:

* Allow illegal immigrants who were in the country as of Jan. 1, 2007, to gain a "Z visa" if they pay fees and fines and pass a background check. Allows them eventually to get on a path to citizenship after waiting in line, paying more fines, holding down jobs and learning English. Heads of households would have to return to their home countries to apply for green cards.

* Create a new temporary worker program that would allow up to 200,000 guest workers per year to enter on two-year "Y" visas that could be renewed twice, provided they returned to their home countries for a year between each stint. Sunsets the program after five years.

* Prevent the "Y" and "Z" visa programs from taking effect until security and enforcement triggers are met, including adding 20,000 border agents, 370 miles of fencing, 300 miles of vehicle barriers and a new worker verification system to bar the hiring of illegal workers. Provides an immediate $4.4 billion for the measures.

* Create an employment-based point system for new immigrants to qualify for green cards based on their education and skill level, and eliminates or limits visa preferences for family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

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Some major amendments to be considered before a final vote:

* Award more points in the merit-based green card allocation system for family ties to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

* Replace the worker identification program, narrowing the group of employees whom businesses would have to check, by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Barack Obama, D-Ill.

* Crack down on people who remain after expiration of their visas, require that all illegal immigrant heads of households seeking lawful status return home within three years to qualify for a "Z" visa, by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Mel Martinez, R-Fla.

* Provide an additional 40,000 "H-1B" visas a year for skilled foreign workers with advanced degrees, set aside 20,000 green cards annually for skilled foreign workers and allow employers to continuing sponsoring such employees for green cards for five years, offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

* Deny illegal immigrants Social Security benefits accrued while they were in the country unlawfully, by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.

* Reduce the annual cap on "Y" visas by the amount of temporary workers who stay past their visas' two-year expiration date, by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

* Bar illegal immigrants from obtaining probationary lawful status until all border security and enforcement triggers are met, by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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