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As Senate's immigration 'Gang' releases text, House group speaks up

As most Americans slept, the Senate bipartisan Gang of Eight formally filed the long-awaited “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Bill of 2013,” releasing a flood of responses from pro-reform groups that had been waiting for the legislative text.

Clocking in at 844 pages, the legislation proposes a 13-year path to citizenship for qualified undocumented immigrants along with ambitious goals to secure the nation’s southern border and a realignment of legal immigration systems to favor more employment-based visas.

After 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, the bill was posted online in its entirety. (you can read it here)

A bipartisan House group that has been working behind the scenes on its own compromise bill applauded the upper chamber’s legislation and said it hopes to reach its own agreement “soon.”

“We believe we will soon agree on a reasonable, common-sense plan to finally secure our borders and strengthen our economy with a tough but fair process that respects the rule of law so immigrants can contribute to our country,” said the group, which includes eight members of Congress. “While we have made substantial progress, we continue to work diligently towards a bill that keeps America strong, competitive and true to our values.”

The statement was signed by Democrats Xavier Becerra and Zoe Lofgren of California,  Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and John Yarmuth of Kentucky; and Republicans John Carter and Sam Johnson of Texas, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, and Raul Labrador of Idaho.  

Groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus also praised the bipartisan spirit of the effort and expressed optimism about the legislative process.

The Chamber, which was heavily involved in negotiating a compromise on temporary workers with labor union AFL-CIO as the bill was being drafted, praised the proposal for including its goals for border security measures, worker visa expansions, a path to citizenship and an E-Verify system.

“There is no doubt that there will be additional input and analysis through Senate hearings and amendments, and we look forward to being part of that needed process,” the Chamber wrote in a statement.

NCLR, a top Latino group, similarly applauded the “courage” of the Senate members for working across party lines.

“This legislation, while not perfect, is a monumental step forward in ensuring that this nation has a fair, humane and effective 21st-century immigration policy that serves our nation’s best interests and works for all Americans, including families, workers and businesses,” wrote NCLR president Janet Murguía

Stakeholders will work to tweak the legislation to address their particular concerns as the bill wends its way through Congress. Civil liberties groups are wary of the employment verification system, and many pro-citizenship groups (in sync with the White House) have expressed skepticism in the past about the idea of security “triggers” that must be met before the legalization process can begin for undocumented immigrants.

The bill will also be strongly opposed by those who say the measure rewards lawbreakers, harms American jobs and costs too much during an economically perilous era.