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New US migrant reform bill

world Updated: Dec 16, 2009 23:55 IST

Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

A new law introduced into the US House of Representatives would open a path to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants, the

New York Times

reported.

Two years ago it was estimated there were 270,000 illegal Indian immigrants in the US, the sixth largest group of illegals by basis of country of origin.

The bill, introduced by Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois late on Tuesday, represents the latest attempt to reform US immigration laws and was described as “the opening volley” in what is expected to be a long and protracted battle over immigration reform.

It would require illegal immigrants to show they had been working at a job, to pay a $500 fine, learn English and have a criminal background check.

Unlike a plan pitched by former president George W Bush, illegal immigrants would not have to leave the US and go to their home country as part of the process. While a small fraction of the total number of illegal immigrants in the US, the Indian migrant population is among the fastest growing in the country.

The American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau in 2007 estimated there were 270,000 unauthorised Indians in the US — a 125 per cent increase since 2000.

An estimated 12 million illegal immigrants have entered the country over the past decade, mostly from Latin America via Mexico.

They represent a growing interest among legal Hispanic-Americans, who defected from the Republican Party to support US President Barack Obama in his 2008 election.

Bush was unable to gain backing even from within his own Republican party with his overture to make it possible for illegal immmigrants to become legal.

The challenge of Obama’s promised immigration reform is seen as particularly difficult amidst the high 10 per cent employment as the country emerges from recession.

The bill lacks a broad program championed by many Republicans, as well as Democrats including Obama, to address future labour demands and to better control the flow of immigration.

To do that, they have advocated a program under which people could work only temporarily in the United States and then return home. Instead, the bill calls for a federal commission to study the best approach for the “future flows of workers.”

Senator Charles E Schumer of New York is working with some Republicans on a separate bill that he has said could be ready whenever Obama asked for it.