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WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - A draft of a White House immigration proposal would allow illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years, USA Today reported on Saturday.
The plan, obtained by the newspaper, also would provide for more security funding and require businesses to check the immigration status of new hires within four years. Illegal immigrants could also apply for a newly created "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa, under the draft bill, it said.
If approved, they could apply for the same provisional legal status for spouses or children living outside the country, according to the draft.
The White House has emphasized the importance of creating a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Many Republicans emphasize that the nation's borders must be secured first.
Latinos favored President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney in the Nov. 6 election by 71 percent to 27 percent, helping tilt politically divided states to the Democratic incumbent.
Members of Congress also are drafting their own immigration bills.
In the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, a bipartisan group has been negotiating an immigration proposal for years and is writing its own bill. Last month, four Republican senators joined with four Democratic senators to announce their agreement on the general outlines of an immigration plan.
One of those Republican senators, Marco Rubio of Florida, dismissed the leaked White House draft bill, however, as a seriously flawed rehash of failed immigration policies that would make the country's immigration problems worse.
"If actually proposed, the president's bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come," Rubio, who is a Cuban-American, said in a statement on Saturday. (Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Peter Cooney)