Senators announced on Thursday that they had reached an agreement on immigration reform that would constitute the biggest change in immigration law and policy in over 20 years. The bill would strengthen border patrol while creating a path toward legalization for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States. Permission to immigrate would be granted to candidates according to a merit-based point system that rewards job skills, education and English language proficiency. The employment-based system is a deviation from the current family-based immigration policy. Proponents claim that family ties will continue to be honored as individuals with relatives within the U.S. would be favored over those without. Critics argue that close family members will continue to be separated because of the proposed policy.