Immigration Reform 2013: California Republican Darrell Issa To Unveil Bill Giving 6-Year Legal Status To Undocumented Immigrants

U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) talks to reporters as he departs a House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 12, 2013
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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the House of Representatives, says he has plans to unveil what he calls a "come-from-the-shadows" bill on immigration which would extend a 6-year legal status to many of the nation's 11.7 million undocumented immigrants and allow them to travel freely to their country of origin.  The House Republican told Politico on Wednesday that the proposal was "halfway between full amnesty and simply rejecting people", adding, "I think if we're going to break this logjam that's occurred for my whole 13 years I've been in Congress, we have to find middle ground."

Issa, whose southern California district is about 30 percent Hispanic and 17 percent foreign-born, has long been seen by immigrant advocates as a moderate voice among the Tea Party-heavy Republican caucus in the House.  America's Voice, the biggest immigrant-advocacy group in the nation, counts him on a list of 28 House GOP members who support immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the undocumented.  His legislation, Politico writes, would "whittle down the undocumented immigrant population into several categories, such as immigrants with family ties to U.S. citizens or immigrants who want to participate in a guest-worker program."

It appears that under his bill, undocumented immigrants already in the country would largely have to make use of pre-existing pathways to citizenship - such as work or family sponsorships - instead of extending a unique path, as does the comprehensive bill passed by the Senate in June. "If somebody has a nexus that would reasonably allow them to become permanent residents and American citizen, we should allow them to do that," Issa said. "Our view is that long before six years, people would be in those categories heading toward some other pathway, in a guest worker program, or of course, have left the country."

Issa told Politico that he was in talks with "a number" of other House lawmakers to co-sponsor the legislation, but would not specify who.  It remains unclear as to whether the House Judiciary Committee would schedule a markup session for the bill.  The chair of that committee, Bob Goodlatte, has called for a bill which would extend a provisional legal status to undocumented immigrants, who would then have to use the four existing avenues -- employer or family sponsorship, refugee or asylum claims, or the "diversity visa" lottery - to get a green card and become citizens.  That plan has been criticized by some experts, who say that it would simply flood an already hugely backlogged visa system, as many legal immigrants wait decades to receive a permanent residency.

RELATED: House Speaker John Boehner Says He's 'Hopeful' About Bringing Immigration Reform To House Floor This Year

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