The bill introduced by the bipartisan Gang of Eight, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, has been met with mixed and muted responses in the shadow of the Boston Marathon Bombing. Some senators, including immigration reform supporter Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), have urged the Senate to tap the breaks and re-evaluate immigration channels before moving forward with the bill. In any case, the many provisions of the 844 page law will be debated during the upcoming weeks.
With an estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., any changes to the immigration system will be wide reaching. The bill has three main components: improving border security, reforming the legal immigration visa process, and documenting illegal immigrants. The bill does provide a conditional path to citizenship that would take 13 years, but it would only apply to people who came to the U.S. before Dec. 31, 2011.
The border security provisions are prerequisites to any of the other provisions of the bill. They operate using certain triggers. A Comprehensive Border Security Strategy and Southern Border Fencing Strategy need to be submitted within six months before the registration period for Registered Provisional Immigrant status (RPI) can begin. The boarder security programs would be run under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security, given a total of $4.5 billion in funding, and required to set goals of being able to apprehend or turn back 90% of people trying to cross illegally in “high-risk” areas. If the goals are not accomplished within 5 years, the bill mandates the creation of a boarder commission of governors who will develop a secondary plan.
A criticism of the bill is that during those 5 years the a program which will allow illegal immigrants to gain temporary, provisional, legal status will be underway. The Registered Provisional Immigrant program (RPI) will have several requirements that applicants will have to meet. First, they must pass a background check and cannot be convicted of any serious crime. Second, they must pay all their back taxes in the form of an assessed tax liability. They also must pay all appropriate fees and a $500 fine. If these hurdles are passed, the status will be valid for six years. The status provides for work and travel authorization and includes spouses and children in the U.S. on the same application.
After the six year period, RPIs applying for renewal will have to undergo the same background check, $500 fine, payment of fees and taxes, etc. They must also provide evidence of having either been regularly employed while meeting a requirement that he/she is not likely to become a “public charge” or having resources to demonstrate 100% of the poverty line. A “public charge” basically means being dependent upon welfare programs.
After a total of 10 years, RPIs may apply for an adjustment to Permanent Resident status. They must be admissible and pay an additional $1000 fine, plus application fees. They must pay all their owed taxes, prove they are learning English, and pass another background check. They also must demonstrate that they have likely to have regularly worked in the U.S such that they are not likely to become a public charge or they have resources to meet 125% of the Federal Poverty Level.
In addition to all this, there are many changes to the legal immigration system. The focus is being shifted from family based immigration visas to skilled work and merit based systems (although both avenues will still be available). There are new programs for Agricultural workers and individuals who entered the U.S. before age 16. Additionally, an E-verify system will be mandatory for all employers 5 years after the implementation of the initial regulations. The bill also specifically prohibits the creation of a National I.D. card.
Politico, Senate Gang of 8 Immigration Reform Bill: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/senate-gang-of-8-immigration-reform-bill-full-text-90192.html
The Wall Street Journal, Immigration Bill Gets Mixed Review: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324763404578429132115195430.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsThird
Federation For American Immigration Reform: http://www.fairus.org/
The Gang of Eight, Breaking Down the Gang of Eight’s Immigration Bill: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erwin-de-leon/gang-of-eight-immigration_b_3126580.html
America’s Voice, Resources for S. 744: Senate Immigration Bill: http://americasvoiceonline.org/research/resources-for-s-744-senate-immigration-bill/
Time, Rand Paul Calls for Immigration Bill to Be Slowed after Boston: http://swampland.time.com/2013/04/22/rand-paul-calls-for-immigration-bill-to-be-slowed-after-boston/
The Powerline, Six Big Problems with the Gang of Eight Legislation: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/04/six-big-problems-with-the-gang-of-eight-legislation.php