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New senate bill may provide immigrants legal status

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Eleven million undocumented immigrants could soon be provided a path to gain legal status.

The framework for an immigration reform bill was announced Monday by four Republican and four Democratic senators. One of these senators is Marco Rubio of Florida, where the issue is at the forefront for the 2016 presidential election.

Dr. Phillip Williams, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida, believes this bill could shape the 2016 presidential election for the Democrats.

Williams said Republicans are concerned as well because the Latino vote has been declining for the party. In the 2012 election, about 25 percent of Latino voters supported the Republican party.

If the Republicans don’t do something to reach out, Williams said, they risk losing this demographic permanently.

Many people are calling this bill an “amnesty” for those who are illegally in this country, but Williams contends it is instead an “earned pathway to citizenship.”

In other words, people will have to undergo background checks and learn English in order to eventually become a citizen.

This bill also has the potential to give way to a very positive economic impact, Williams said.

“There’s a lot of immigrants today who don’t have legal status, and they’re not investing because of their precarious legal situation.”

If people are given some financial security, they will be more likely to contribute to the economy in a much bigger way, he said.

The bill is in its early stages and is only a framework at this point in time. It is going to require a lot more work to put together, but President Barack Obama said it “is his top legislative priority.”

“This is not going to be easy,” Williams said. “It’s still got a long road to go and it’s not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination.”

Michelle Plitnikas wrote this story online.

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