Immigration reform 101: How does Senate plan address four big questions?

After months of closed-door negotiations, the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight” offered a legislative summary of its proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. Here is how the Senate gang handled the four hottest immigration flashpoints.

4. Family reunification

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    Immigrant rights protesters hold signs outside of Kluczynski Federal Building in downtown Chicago in March to denounce plans by immigration reformers in the Senate to end some family visas and diversity visas.
    Nam Y. Huh/AP/File
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The Senate bill will likewise shift America’s immigration policy toward family members.

Chiefly, the bill focuses on getting spouses and children into the country, but it will cut back on allowing siblings and adult, married children to join their families in the US.

Those who could bring their spouses and children to the country without delay include green card holders, employment-based immigrants, doctoral degree holders in any field, some physicians, and some immigrants of “extraordinary ability” (like athletes, artists, executives, and others). Limits or bars on immigration among these core family members in the past put pressure on spouses and children to illegally immigrate to be with their loved ones, advocates say, and these changes will help alleviate those concerns.

Moreover, the bill says that the entire backlog of family-based visa applicants will be cleared within 10 years.

But US citizens will no longer be able to sponsor siblings, beginning 18 months after the bill is enacted. And the only married, adult children who can apply to join their families will be those under age 31. The bill also eliminates a long-standing conservative target: the diversity visa program, which brings in immigrants from countries (many in Africa) underrepresented in the wider immigration pool.

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