WASHINGTON, April 12 (UPI) -- The bipartisan group of U.S. senators' immigration blueprint includes a program that would grant permanent legal residence based on work skills, aides said.
The merit-based program, just one part of the bill, would include high-skilled and blue-collar workers and over time open up opportunities for foreigners to settle in the United States based on their skills, a change from the family-focused foundation of the current immigration system, The New York Times reported Thursday.
The measure also includes provisions that would eliminate, over 10 years' time, a backlog of 4.7 million immigrants who have applied to enter the United States legally but have been stuck waiting for permanent resident visas, or green cards. During the next decade, the Times said, millions of immigrants who have been waiting for legal documents will be united with their family members already in the United States.
The bill also would provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants now living in the country illegally. Under the proposal, those immigrants would wait at least 13 years before they could apply to become citizens.
The eight senators drafting the legislation include Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said the "Gang of Eight" reached broad agreement on key elements and hoped to introduce the bill early next week.
Schumer said Thursday all issues among the senators had been resolved.
"All that's left is the drafting," he said.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.
Tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters rallied Wednesday at the Capitol, calling for a path to citizenship for all illegal immigrants in the country and urging Congress to act quickly.