Trained as a lawyer in El Salvador, the 28-year-old works as a cook in a Houston burger joint. His wife, an American citizen, is a hair stylist. He estimates it will take him up to eight months to save the money for the citizenship application.

“It’s really hard when you have to pay rent around $600, when you have car notes for $300 and $500,” Angel said.

Republican supporters of the proposed fines say penalties are necessary to defend against any appearance that creating a pathway to citizenship amounts to amnesty.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think tank that supports tighter immigration controls, said if immigrants who are in the country illegally are allowed to seek citizenship, they should have to pay the costs, which will increase if millions of applications need to be processed.

However, he said, the costs should not be so high that people can’t afford them.

“It’s stupid to price people out of the market,” Krikorian said.