Bipartisan group introduces immigration reform bill

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill to overhaul immigration laws and provide a path to legal status for an estimated 11 million people who overstayed their visas or illegally entered the United States, Senate aides said.

The far-reaching legislative package would tighten border security, increase visas for foreign workers and toughen penalties against American employers who hire undocumented workers.

Immigrants without legal status who have not committed a serious crime and meet other criteria would be able to obtain work permits and eventually apply to become permanent residents and U.S. citizens.

The bill is titled the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 and was formally filed on the floor of the Senate shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday by Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer, said Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the New York senator.

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Schumer introduced the landmark legislation on behalf of himself and fellow Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, as well as Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona, said Fallon.

The four Republicans and four Democrats began meeting after the November election to begin drafting the bill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled hearings on the draft for Friday and Monday. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is expected to testify before the Senate panel about the far-reaching proposal on Friday.

Committee members will consider changes to the draft in early May, and debate by the full Senate could follow soon after.

PHOTOS: The debate over immigration reform

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