House GOP leaders back path to legal status for illegal immigrants

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House Republican leaders on Thursday endorsed a limited path to legal status for some illegal immigrants, in a move Democrats said could open the door to a deal on comprehensive immigration legislation. The position was included in a document released by party leaders during their annual retreat in Maryland. The “standards for immigration reform” document ruled out a special path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Instead, it said immigrants living here illegally could remain and live legally if they pass background checks, pay fines and back taxes, learn to speak English and understand U.S. civics, and can support themselves without access to welfare. But GOP leaders made clear that border security must be improved first. “None of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented,” the document said. Nevertheless, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a big advocate for immigration legislation on the Senate side, said the announcement could smooth the way for a deal on legislation. The Senate passed an immigration bill last year. “While these standards are certainly not everything we would agree with, they leave a real possibility that Democrats and Republicans, in both the House and Senate, can in some way come together and pass immigration reform that both sides can accept. It is a long, hard road but the door is open,” he said.

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