Pete Domenici, the senior senator from New Mexico, said this week that he will propose immigration reform legislation or attach an amendment to one of the bills already offered when Congress returns from its summer recess.
Domenici, a Republican, is concerned that the current proposals by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), in one corner, and by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), in another, do not significantly tackle the issues of people currently illegally residing in the United States.
“We need to address immigration issues not necessarily as only a guide towards attaining citizenship, but also towards providing a legal workforce,” said an aide to the senator.
Domenici wants a permit system that would allow current illegal aliens a three-to-five-year term of residence to allow them to “normalize” their status. His scheme would allow the permit holder “extensions,” but that there would ultimately be a final countdown where the holder would either obtain legal status or be forced to leave the country.
He also endorsed maintaining regional quotas to allow only a certain number of immigrants from various countries across the globe to attain citizenship.
The current Kyl/Cornyn plan would allow undocumented workers to apply for temporary work permits from their home country but require them to leave the United Sates after five years.
The Kennedy/McCain proposal would allow those already in the United States illegally to obtain work permits for up to six years. Workers and their families would then be eligible for legal permanent residence and ultimately citizenship after paying a fine and possibly back taxes.
Reflecting on the concerns of his own constituents in New Mexico, Domenici also wants significantly greater funding for border control security, which already is costing the U.S. $1 billion a year.
Domenici, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, decided to address the immigration issue after the recent energy bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush last week.
” He instructed staff to get to work on this and assemble all the research to get going,” said his aide, but an exact time frame for introduction of the proposals is still uncertain.