Earlier today, a group of eight U.S. Senators released a proposed framework for a comprehensive immigration reform. The document signed off by Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York, John McCain of Arizona, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Marco Rubio of Florida, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Jeff Flake of Arizona, outlines the framework for comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to U.S. citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.
Our office has closely monitored Congress’ attempts to enact into law a comprehensive immigration reform over the past few years; however, this time around it seems that passing a comprehensive immigration measure is actually possible, and even likely. After the November 2012 elections, the Republicans have embraced the idea of immigration reform more warmly. As a result, we will continue monitoring serious developments on this topic and provide updates for the benefit of our readers and clients.
The Proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Framework
Create a Path to Citizenship for Unauthorized Immigrants Already in the U.S.
Under the proposal, the law would allow undocumented immigrants with otherwise clean criminal records to quickly achieve probationary legal residency after paying a fine and back taxes. Such immigrants could pursue full citizenship — giving them the right to vote and access to government benefits — only after new measures are in place to prevent a future influx of illegal immigrants. Such measures would include border security, a new program to help employers verify the legal status of their employees and more stringent measures aiming to prevent immigrants to overstay their visas.
Minor children who are not documented and who were brought to the U.S. would not be subject to the “back-of-the-line” provisions and would have an easier path to citizenship. Similarly, agricultural workers who have been working without documentation would have an easier path to citizenship.
Improve the Legal Immigration System and Attract the World’s Best and Brightest
The proposal seeks to reduce current backlogs in the family and employment-based visa categories so that future immigrants see the lawful immigration system as the only way of entry into the U.S. Also, a green card would be awarded to Ph.D. or Master’s degree holders in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) from an American university.
Stronger Employment Verification
The proposal calls for a “tough, fair, effective and mandatory” employment verification system making employers liable for hiring undocumented workers and making it harder for undocumented workers to falsify documents and find employment.
Increasing Foreign Workers Quotas
The proposal seeks to improve the system for hiring lower-skilled workers by U.S. employers by allowing more lower-skilled workers’ quotas and making it faster and easier for U.S. workers (after following procedural safeguards to ensure no U.S. workers are available for the job) to bring foreign workers.
Other Immigration Proposals in Congress
There are other immigration proposals, in varying stages, intended to deal with related issues. For example, Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, a Republican, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democrat, would propose a bill which would nearly double the number of H-1B temporary visas available each year to highly skilled immigrants. It would also free up more permanent resident visas, known as green cards, so those immigrants could eventually settle in the United States and go on to become citizens.
It seems as finally there seems to be broad enough consensus here in Washington, DC that the current immigration system must be reformed to deal with structural problems. Our office faces and helps individuals who have to deal with such structural immigration system problems every day and we welcome these proposals. Just because this is a framework, it is subject to (and will likely) change, negotiation and political manipulation by many; however, we hope that what would emerge as immigration reform law is a fairer system which would allow certainty and path to achieving the American dream to many.
We will certainly follow developments very closely and provide updates. We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics. We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about this article.