Kyl-Cornyn limits guest workers to three separate two-year terms in the United States. After each term, the workers must return home for at least a year. Guest workers will not be permitted to apply for a green card before leaving America and applying for one through regular legal channels.
Where there is greatest daylight between the bills — and what may prove the greatest obstacle to comprehensive immigration reform — is the status of the 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States.
The McCain-Kennedy bill allows illegal immigrants already in the United States to apply for a guest worker visa as long as they have no criminal record and can show a work history. After six years, immigrant workers can apply for permanent status, if they meet strict language and civics requirements, and pay back taxes and fines of $2,000 or more per adult.
Kyl-Cornyn requires illegal immigrants now in the United States to turn themselves in to authorities to be deported, and then apply for legal status after they return home. If they do not leave the United States within five years, they will not be allowed to apply for a guest worker visa for at least 10 years thereafter.
Opponents of Kyl-Cornyn refer to this approach as "report to deport." At a recent hearing on immigration, McCain criticized his fellow Arizona Republican's idea, saying it "borders on fantasy."
When asked to respond to McCain's remark, Cornyn told CBS News his legislation "provides a way for (undocumented immigrants) to return home in an orderly, humane fashion, and over the course of up to five years. Then they can immediately re-enter the United States through legal means, which ensures that all immigrants have a fair path towards permanent residence and citizenship, and that none receive special treatment."
A Pew Hispanic Center poll released last week shows 84 percent of Americans favor a plan allowing illegal immigrants to stay and work in the United States with an opportunity to become citizens later. The same poll shows Americans, to a slightly lesser degree, are also sympathetic to the Kyl-Cornyn approach.