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The proposal would allow illegal immigrants to apply for temporary work permits that could last for six years. They would have to clear criminal background checks, pass an English language test and pay a $2,000 fee to qualify.
At the end of the six years, they and their families could apply for permanent resident status, and five years later for citizenship.
The bill would also allow foreign citizens to apply for low-paid jobs that Americans do not want to do from outside the country. If the worker lost his job, he would have 60 days to find a new one or return home.
Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican who would supports cracking down on illegal immigrants, said the bill offered amnesty to millions of people who had broken U.S. laws by entering the country illegally.
"There is a little more lipstick on this pig than there was before, but it's most certainly the same old pig," he said.
Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois called the bill an "orderly, humane, compassionate immigration policy" that contained incentives for illegal immigrants to enter the legal economy while punishing them for entering the country illegally by forcing them to pay the $2,000.