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Immigration bill may leave out hundred of thousands

WASHINGTON -- A promised path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally may leave out hundreds of thousands of them.

Bipartisan Senate legislation would make legalization and ultimately citizenship available only to those who arrived in the country before Dec. 31, 2011, according to a Senate aide with knowledge of the proposals.

Anyone who came later would be subject to deportation.

The bill, expected to be introduced next week, also would require applicants to document that they were in the country before the cutoff date, have a clean criminal record and show enough employment or financial stability that they're likely to stay off welfare, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposals had not been made public.

Although illegal immigration to the United States has been dropping, tens of thousands of people still arrive annually, so the cutoff date alone could exclude a large number of people. The aide said hundreds of thousands could be excluded overall.

That came as a disappointment to immigrant rights groups that had been hoping that anyone here as of the date of enactment of the bill could be able to become eligible for citizenship.

"The goal is to deal with the 11 million folks who are here without status, and the wider road that we can create for them to get on that path that they can ultimately get residency and citizenship, the better," Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, said yesterday.

Republicans in the eight-member immigration negotiating group have sought strict criteria on legal enforcement and border security as the price for their support for a path to citizenship, which is still opposed by some as amnesty. The aide said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is working to sell the plan to the right, pushed Democrats in the group for an even earlier cutoff date, while the Democrats proposed Jan. 1, 2013.

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