As has been widely publicized, the Senate is considering a massive Comprehensive Immigration Reform initiative. The purpose of this short article is to provide our clients with a very brief overview of the proposal on the table. For those of you who want to take a look at the 300 plus page proposal, you may click on the following link: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.1348:
Proponents of the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation promote various significant points found in the bill. First, they maintain that the new law is not an amnesty program. Rather, illegal immigrants would be required to fulfill various conditions, such as passing background checks, paying fines, and “getting in line” behind all others who have already begun the process of applying for permanent legal status. These immigrants would also be required to complete English language requirements and demonstrate merit under the new merit-based system. That system would award points based on factors such as proficiency in English, highest level of education completed (with “bonus points” for training in math, science, or technology), employer endorsement, and family ties..
Second, the proposed bill seeks to end “chain migration” by limiting family-based immigration to the nuclear family only, as well as reducing the waiting period for a green card. .
Third, a new temporary worker program would be created where workers would be granted visas (initially capped at 400,000) to do jobs that are not filled by legal citizens. This temporary worker visa is limited to two-years and may be renewed, however, once each two-year visa expires, the worker must leave the United States and wait one year before reapplying. This process may be repeated; however it is limited to a total of three two-year-periods, thereby ensuring a truly “temporary” worker program.
Under the proposed legislation, employers to access a national database and verify a worker’s eligibility for employment. Employers who fail to follow these measures would incur “stiff penalties”
Many in individuals have raised serious concerns and misgivings about the ramifications this proposed legislation might bring. For example, the bill would destroy employment-based immigration by getting rid of employment-based categories currently in place. Instead, a new point system would determine who may get visas, with a strong bias towards those workers who hold advanced degrees or are English-speaking professionals. Yet, the point system does not appear to afford any “points” for “extraordinary ability aliens” or skilled and essential workers. In addition, it is woefully inadequate because it would be limited to only 40,000 individuals per year.
Second, the current proposed legislation would also undermine family-based immigration by limiting future immigration to only spouses and minor children. Other relatives, such as adult children, would be left to fend for themselves under the point system. Parents of U.S. citizens would no longer be routinely eligible for permanent residence sponsorship.
Third, under the “Y” temporary worker plan, essential and highly skilled workers will have access to a two-year nonimmigrant visa. However, after the two years, the worker must leave the country and wait a period of one year before being able to re-apply for another two-year visa. While allowed to work lawfully, these workers are left without any means of gaining permanent lawful status.
Finally, the process for legalization for the 12 million undocumented immigrants would be long and arduous. After registering for a temporary work permit, the worker must return to his or her home country and only then can he or she begin the application process. From that point, the worker can realistically expect to wait anywhere between 8 and 13 years before he or she is granted permanent legal status. Further, the costs associated with this process are sobering – it is estimated that a Z-visa-holding worker can expect to pay between $8,500 and $11,500 in the pursuit to become a legal resident.
On May 20, 2007, The New York Times posted an editorial designating the current immigration reform bill as a “deeply flawed compromise.” Though noting some of the plan’s potential “good” results, the piece warns of “the bad” and “the awful” consequences which will almost surely come as a result if the legislation is passed. For the article, click http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/20/opinion/20sun1.html?ex=1180324800&en=70f1748ede68bfc0&ei=5070&emc=eta1
A lot of people have asked what we think about this bill. Our initial reaction is along the lines of the editorial in The New York Times and that is the reason why we have provided a link to that editorial. Please note that if any of you feel strongly about this bill, there is something that you can do: call the office of the two Senator’s from your state and let them know what you think about the bill. It is extremely important to provide feedback during this debate process.