Intense reaction as immigration bill filed

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The formal introduction of a bipartisan Senate immigration bill is sparking intense debate on Capitol Hill and beyond, as lawmakers and groups on all sides digest the 844-page legislation to enact sweeping changes to the nation's immigration laws.

The "Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013" was filed around 2 a.m. Wednesday by Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. In an unusual move, lawmakers kept the Senate open late. They had promised to deliver the legislation Tuesday and wanted to give other lawmakers as much time as possible to review it before a Friday hearing.

Some Republicans criticized the bill as amnesty, while some groups on the left said it was unnecessarily punitive.

President Barack Obama says the bill is a compromise that doesn't give anyone everything they want - including him. But he urges the Senate to move it forward.

The bill details a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 to 15 million immigrants who are already living in the country illegally. That path involves a in-depth background check, payment of fines and back taxes, proof of employment and physical evidence that they were in the U.S. before Dec. 31, 2011. A single felony or more than three misdemeanors disqualifies them.

The process is a long one -- 10 years before they can apply for a green card and then another three to get citizenship..

There are three policy items, "triggers," that have to happen to set all of this in motion. These triggers are related to creating a secure border, including constant surveillance of high-risk areas and the reduction of illegal border crossing by 90 percent.

"We don't support the triggers because obviously a lot can happen between triggers," Petra Falcon of Promise Arizona said. "The first thing is we think it's a long period of time for someone to wait for citizenship. ... I think this is something we can work through. We need to work with our members of Congress and senators to make sure it's as good a bill as possible."

Promise Arizona has been holding periodic prayer vigils at the Arizona State Capitol for about three years. They've been there since Sunday to show their support for immigration reform. The also plan to demonstrate at Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's officer to encourage him to put a stop to deportations.