Republican Rep. Raul Labrador on Thursday offered a potential immigration deal to the White House, saying the GOP would agree to loosen penalties on illegal immigrants if President Obama would agree to increase visas for foreigners who work in high-tech fields.
Mr. Labrador suggested dropping the penalty period that bars illegal immigrants from reapplying to enter the U.S. legally after being deported, a period that now lasts for between three and 10 years, depending on how long they had first remained in the country illegally.
“I think most Republicans agree that the 3- and 10-year bars have to go away because right now the people that are here illegally, they have to go home to become legal, but then they have to remain home for ten years,” the Idaho Republican said. “We remove those bars from them, you could fix the status of about 25 percent of the people that are here illegally right now if they return to their home country and then they come back legally.”
Under current law, those that leave the U.S. after living here illegally for six months or more cannot return for three years. Those who lived here illegally for at least a year cannot return for ten years. That has served as an incentive for many illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. rather than return home and face yearslong bans.
Mr. Labrador, who dropped out of a bipartisan group last year that tried to strike a broad immigration deal, made the overture at a forum of House conservatives hosted by the Heritage Foundation.
He said in return for dropping the bars, Democrats should agree to boost legal immigration by granting green cards to foreigners who graduate from American universities with advanced degrees in the fields of science, engineering, math or technology.
Democrats have said they support that change, and indeed this week the Department of Homeland Security took unilateral steps to try to make it easier to approve visas for some high-skilled foreign workers.