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Plans advanced by senators, Obama offer hope for immigrants

  • President Barack Obama speaks about immigration at Del Sol High School, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Francisco Olivares, a 38-year-old undocumented immigrant who lives with his family in Sebastopol, has a lot riding on the promises of a president.

Two years ago, during a traffic stop, Olivares ended up in jail because he could not produce valid U.S. identification. That in turn landed him in the hands of federal immigration officials, and he's faced a deportation order ever since.

But Olivares, the father of four U.S.-born children, said he has cause for hope. He said a plan by a bipartisan group of senators to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, announced Monday and lauded by the president on Tuesday, could change his life.

"It would be a blessing for me and my family," Olivares said, speaking in Spanish. "Especially for me, because I'm now facing deportation."

President Barack Obama, speaking Tuesday at a high school in Las Vegas, said he would hold off on introducing his own immigration proposal and give senators a chance to get their bill through Congress.

But he warned that if such a bill got bogged down in Congress he "will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away."

Obama's proposal, outlined in a fact sheet, was very similar to the bipartisan Senate proposal. But Obama's plan would give U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents the ability to seek a visa for a committed same-sex partner. The president's plan also would not link the pathway to "earned citizenship" to tougher border security.

The senate proposal, made by a bipartisan group of six senators, would:

Create a "tough but fair" path to citizenship for illegal immigrants that is contingent on greater border security.

Create a fast and reliable electronic employment verification system and impose stiff fines on employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers.

Improve the current legal immigration process by, among other things, reducing visa backlogs that separate families, and award green cards to immigrants with advanced degrees in science engineering and math.

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