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Arizona group pleased with new immigration bill

PHOENIX — Some are calling the new bipartisan immigration bill amnesty. Others call it unnecessarily punitive. Members of the Arizona Latino Caucus said it’s a step in the right direction.

“I’m excited, I’m hopeful,” said Rep. Martin Quezada. “We’ve taken a huge step forward. Now we are at a point we have a beginning to this debate.”

Members of the group agree that it’s not a perfect bill, but are glad that the package includes a pathway to citizenship.

“That’s what we’ve been asking for, it’s what we’ve wanted and that’s what we deserve,” said Quezada.

The pathway to citizenship, is one that will undoubtedly not be an easy one. It would take 13 years, the first 10 of those in a provisional legal status during which immigrants would not have access to federal benefits. Immigrants would have to pay $2,000 in fines plus hundreds more in fees, and outstanding taxes. No one with a felony conviction or more than three misdemeanors would be eligible, and no one who entered the country after Dec. 31, 2011, could apply.

According to the 844-page document, the legislation would dramatically remake the U.S. immigration system, ushering in new visa programs for low- and high-skilled workers, requiring a tough new focus on border security, instituting a new requirement for all employers to check the legal status of their workers, and installing a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

The U.S. immigration system would shift from emphasizing family ties to U.S. citizens or permanent residents in determining who can come to this country, to putting a much bigger focus on their skills or employment opportunities. People who’ve been deported would have the opportunity to come back to the U.S. if their spouses or children are in the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.