March 22, 2007 -- A bipartisan team of federal lawmakers on Thursday introduced an immigration-reform bill that would require undocumented foreign workers to return home before re-applying for permanent U.S. residency, among other provisions.

Co-sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act, or STRIVE, is expected to reignite the immigration debate for the first time since last year's midterm elections.

"Our current immigration laws are at odds with reality," Flake said in a statement, adding that the bill balances tougher border security and law enforcement with a temporary worker program "that's enforceable and fair."

"It will allow us to better protect our borders and reform an immigration system that is hampering businesses, hurting families and harming communities," Gutierrez said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the bill a step forward on a divisive issue.

"It reflects a strong commitment by a bipartisan group of House members," Pelosi said in a statement. "Today, the House has begun the hard work of addressing immigration reform."

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented workers in the United States.

Roughly half of the nation's small-business owners support some form of amnesty for undocumented workers, according to a survey released last year by the National Federation of Independent Business, a Washington-based lobby group. At the same time, most owners also support tougher penalties for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers, the survey found.

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