If she were granted legal status, Maria Rios said, she would quit her graveyard job cleaning buildings. Marcos Baquiax would buy a home for his family. Maria Diaz would get a driver's license and apply to college.
But all three illegal immigrants said Thursday that they were skeptical about the details of a proposed deal struck by a bipartisan group of senators that would give them legal probationary status and eventually allow them to apply for green cards and citizenship.
Under the plan, immigrants would need to have arrived by Jan. 1, 2007, and would have to pass a background check, keep their job, stay out of legal trouble and pay a $1,000 fine.
Ultimately, they would be able to apply for permanent residency if they paid an additional $4,000 fine, knew English and returned to their native country before applying for a green card.
Immigrant rights advocates warily embraced the legislation for including all of the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.
They said it would enable such immigrants to come out of the shadows to work legally, get driver's licenses and be protected from deportation.
But Korean American leader Eun Sook Lee said the legalization provision was the only part of the Senate deal worth salvaging. She criticized the "unrealistic requirements" that some applicants return home to file their green card applications, and that they wait as long as 13 years to become citizens.
Angela Sanbrano, executive director of the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, said the proposed fines would be unaffordable to many immigrants, who typically earned less than $20,000 a year.
For Rios, 46, the proposed fees would be insurmountable.
"That's a lot of money," said Rios, who gave her second last name because she feared being discovered at work. "Being a single mother with three kids, it would be very hard."
And yet without papers, she lives in fear. Last month, Rios said, her landlord tried to evict her and her children from their Los Angeles studio apartment so he could raise the rent. Rios fought back, but she constantly worries about her family's future, she said. Her eldest child is in the country illegally, but her two others, ages 11 and 13, were born here.
Rios said she worried that the U.S. government wouldn't let her reenter the United States if she went to Mexico to file her green card application. "That's just what they say," she said. "But I don't think so."
Baquiax, 37, said he fled Guatemala during the war about 15 years ago. He lost his petition for asylum and said he faced a deportation order.
Baquiax said he would eagerly pay the fine, but would be less willing to leave the country to file his paperwork.
"Legally, this program isn't going to work," he said. "We need amnesty, for everyone, without requirements."
On Thursday, Baquiax went to the Central American Resource Center to help with the campaign for legislation. He called the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and urged her to support legalization for undocumented immigrants.
Diaz, 40, who is working on her high school diploma, said the Senate proposal seemed like a good opportunity, especially for recent immigrants.
But Diaz, who came to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager, said she didn't think she should have to wait so many years to obtain a green card or become a citizen.
At the same time, she isn't rushing to get her paperwork together.
"I have hope that there will be a program, but I don't trust that it will be this year," she said. Politicians "always talk, but nothing passes."