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Undocumented immigrants pay $2,000 fine under Senate plan

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

For the 11 million folks whose first encounter with the United States likely involved crossing its border and breaking its law, many of them see the deal on the table on Capitol Hill as a sweet one.

As punishment for coming and staying in America without permission, the penalty proposed in the U.S. Senate is a $2,000 fine.

"That's why this is not amnesty," said Senator Marco Rubio, who listed the fine among several requirements in what would amount to a 13 year long path to citizenship.

Maybe not amnesty, but critics say it's about as close as you can get.

Consider this, most undocumented immigrants paid three to five times more to a smuggler to get here - than they'll have to shell out to stay here.

"That's a really low number. It's not really punitive. That's effectively more like a filing fee," said Paul Bettencourt, a longtime Republican officeholder and activist.

$2,000 is a lot less than most pay for a used car and in Texas about eight times less than the expense of a drunk driving conviction.

That said, advocates for the undocumented have pushed for the lowest possible penalty.

"Obviously, if its something that's inaccessible folks won't want to apply for it," said Cesar Espinosa, executive director of Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle.

"Most of these families are working class families. A lot of them are low income and we would like to have access to this immigration reform and money not be a barrier to that," added Espinosa.

Paul Bettencourt calls the proposed $2,000 fine, both mild and subject to increase in the House version of immigration reform.

"Look a handicap sticker violation cost you $500 bucks, okay? I expect that penalty will go up to $3,000, $4,000 or $5,000 dollars. Something more rational in a penalty. I mean you have been here without coming through legal immigration. It's a penalty," said Bettencourt.

More pragmatist than politician, Bettencourt sees a huge backside benefit to what some call "amnesty with a service charge".

"There's no question that getting everybody documented will mean more bucks for the U.S. Treasury," said Bettencourt who predicts increased tax revenue from multiple sources related to bringing the undocumented out of what he calls an "under world economy".

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