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National News

April 7, 2013

All about immigration: Green cards? Citizenship?

WASHINGTON — This may be the year Congress decides what to do about the millions of immigrants living illegally in the U.S. And this may be the week when a bipartisan group of senators makes public details of the overhaul plan it has been negotiating for months.

But what will that be? Why now? And who are all these immigrants, once you get past the big round numbers?

A big dose of facts, figures and other information to help understand the current debate over immigration:  

WHY NOW?

Major problems with U.S. immigration have been around for decades.

President George W. Bush tried to change the system and failed. President Barack Obama promised to overhaul it in his first term but never did.

In his second term, he’s making immigration a priority, and Republicans also appear ready to deal.

Why the new commitment?

Obama won 71 percent of Hispanic voters in his 2012 re-election campaign, and he owes them. Last year’s election also sent a loud message to Republicans that they can’t ignore this pivotal voting bloc.

It’s been the kind of breathtaking turnaround you rarely see in politics. Plus, there’s growing pressure from business leaders, who want to make it easier for the U.S. to attract highly educated immigrants and to legally bring in more lower-skilled workers such as farm laborers.

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

Talk about “comprehensive immigration reform” generally centers on four main questions:

—What to do about the 11 million-plus immigrants who live in the U.S. without legal permission.

—How to tighten border security.

—How to keep businesses from employing people who are in the U.S. illegally.

—How to improve the legal immigration system, now so convoluted that the adjective “Byzantine” pops up all too frequently.

WHAT’S THE GANG OF EIGHT?

A group of four Democrats and four Republicans in the Senate, taking the lead in trying to craft legislation that would address all four questions.

Obama is preparing his own plan as a backup in case congressional talks fail. There’s also a bipartisan House group working on draft legislation, but House Republican leaders may leave it to the Senate to make the first move.

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