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Local immigration lawyers praise President's plan

Published On: Jan 28 2013 07:00:00 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 29 2013 07:08:42 PM EST

A massive immigration overhaul may finally be in the works.

A massive immigration overhaul may finally be in the works. President Obama announced his plan Tuesday afternoon, one day after a bi-partisan group of lawmakers announced a similar push. Local immigration attorneys said it could mean citizenship for millions -- with a catch.

Immigrants cook your food, construct our roads, and build people's homes. Most are here legally, but for those who aren't, a plan is in the works to possibly change that.

"The time has come for common sense, comprehensive immigration reform," said President Barack Obama in a speech Tuesday.

The plan would grant "Probationary Legal Status" to at least 11 million undocumented immigrants.

"It's like almost one step short of actually having a green card," said Allentown immigration lawyer Kevin Santos.

Attorney David Vaida said lawmakers have avoided the problem for far too long.

"I think it's long overdue that we have immigration reform," he said. "We cannot have 11 million -- and I think it's more like 13 million -- people living underground."

The plan would create a path to permanent citizenship, but it would be a long one -- perhaps up to 8 years.

"You would have to show that your were gainfully employed, that you were paying your taxes," said Santos. "No criminal record."

A group of Republicans is actually on board with the plan, but with a catch. Some want to tie citizenship to tighter borders, but immigration attorneys point out that illegal crossings are at an historic low. Four drones now patrol the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

"How do you prove it? What's the measurement?", asked Santos. "How do you determine whether the borders are secure or not?"

There is also potential hope for those who are already facing deportation. Experts say many rounded up in immigration raids could be eligible for probationary citizenship.

"It's easy sometimes for the discussion to take on a feeling of 'us versus them,'" said Mr. Obama. "When that happens, a lot of folks forget that most of 'us' used to be 'them.'"

The President chose Nevada to announce his plan, a state Republicans lost with help from a huge Hispanic vote.

"They are not going to come over on social issues when the Republican party is beating them up on immigration," warned Vaida.