By Raju Chebium
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein - who represent a state with the nation's largest number of undocumented immigrants - support a Senate plan that would overhaul the immigration system and offer those living in the U.S. illegally a path to citizenship.
A bipartisan group of senators unveiled their plan on Capitol Hill on Monday, one day before President Barack Obama releases his own recommendations during a visit to Las Vegas.
"It's great to see movement on comprehensive immigration reform," Boxer said. "While the devil is in the details, I look to working with my colleagues on this legislation."
Feinstein said any plan must provide a way for undocumented people to become citizens eventually but also require them to pay taxes and fines and learn English. Tightening border security and providing an effective way for the U.S. agriculture industry to hire foreign laborers are other critical elements, she said.
"The comprehensive framework outlined today by the bipartisan Senate working group is a major step forward in the effort to reform our broken immigration system," Feinstein said. "As a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, I am encouraged by today's progress and look forward to working closely with my colleagues on this issue."
The Senate Judiciary Committee will take the lead in holding hearings to examine the reform proposal.
The Senate plan calls for a special legalization path for undocumented farm workers, but the specifics have yet to be worked out.
Of the 11.2 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. in 2010, 2.55 million lived in California - more than in any other state, according to the Pew Research Hispanic Center. California is also home to millions of legal immigrants, many of whom work in Silicon Valley.
The plan was put together by Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Opponents blasted the plan.
Rosemary Jenks, director of government affairs for Numbers USA, accused the senators of trying to "out-amnesty Obama," and said their plan merely reworks the proposals that were defeated six years ago.
It offers "meaningless enforcement measures, mass amnesty, and increases in legal immigration, with taxpayers left to foot the bill," she said.
Gannett Washington Bureau