Senators Unveil Framework for Effective Immigration Reform

shutterstock_2962173Eight Senators today released a “Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform” which proposes an overhaul of our legal immigration system while expanding border security measures and hardening current employment verification procedures. Most notably, the proposal would give unauthorized immigrants already in the country a chance to earn U.S. citizenship. Although the framework is only a very rough outline of what comprehensive immigration reform legislation might look like, the principles it espouses constitute an excellent starting point for the legislative negotiations that will now being in earnest. The Senators involved in the negotiations—Democrats Chuck Schumer (NY), Dick Durbin (IL), Bob Menendez (NJ), and Michael Bennet (CO); and Republicans John McCain (AZ), Marco Rubio (FL), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Jeff Flake (AZ)—outlined four “legislative pillars” for immigration reform:

  • Creating a pathway to U.S. citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States. Implementation of this provision is “contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays,” which leaves open the question of exactly how much enforcement will be deemed sufficient for a legalization program to begin. Nevertheless, unauthorized immigrants would first register with the federal government and receive “probationary legal status” if they pass a background check and pay a fine and back taxes. Once new enforcement measures are in place at the border and an entry-exit system has been created for the nation as a whole, immigrants with probationary status would be sent to the “back of the line” for a green card and, after that, U.S. citizenship.  Because current backlogs for immigrants applying for family and employment based visas can cause delays of twenty years or more, the proposal also acknowledges a need to reduce existing backlogs.  Backlog reduction and a more reasonable number of family and employment based visas will constitute an important, but as yet unknown part of the forthcoming legislation. Separate and less arduous pathways to citizenship would be created for unauthorized immigrants who came to this country as children (the DREAMers) and for unauthorized agricultural workers.
  • Reforming the legal immigration system and attracting the “best and brightest.” Channels for legal immigration to the United States would be revamped so that they are more responsive to labor demand, especially at the high-skilled end of the occupational spectrum. Green cards would be given to foreign students who earn a graduate degree in science, engineering, technology, or mathematics from a U.S. university. In addition, backlogs would be reduced for both family-based and employment-based immigration applications.
  • Strong employment verifications. A mandatory system of employment-eligibility verification that is capable of detecting identity fraud would be put in place to prevent future unauthorized immigrants from obtaining jobs in the United States.
  • Admitting new workers and protecting workers’ rights. U.S. employers would be allowed to hire an immigrant if an American worker cannot be found to fill a position, within the context of strong labor protections for all workers, both immigrant and native-born.

It goes without saying that this framework for immigration reform will be attacked from both sides of the political spectrum. Some will say that its enforcement provisions are too stringent, others will say that its legalization provisions are too generous. Regardless, it is a good-faith effort to start serious talks on an enormously complex topic. The “legislative pillars” identified by the Senators attempt to effectively address the plight of unauthorized immigrants already in this country, while making the employment-based and family-based immigration systems flexible enough to forestall more unauthorized immigration in the future. In addition, the pillars seek to balance calls for heightened enforcement with demands for systemic reform. In the current political climate, this is no easy task.

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  1. Debra Gilmore says:

    These are all great ideas but a few simple measures like changing the “Registry” date ; moving it up from 1971 gradually and restoring sec. 245(i) with a few small modifications on the dates and physical presence requirement would give a great immediate benefit that would help many.

    • Ellen Gorman says:

      This is a very good suggestion and an easy fix for initial, immediate actions. Another “no-brainer” easy fix would be to adjust/increase the number of visas that can be issued annually in order to alleviate the tremendous and outdated backlogs vis-a-vis priority dates in family and employment-based categories.

    • griselda says:

      Agree w debra …..And renewing the v visa would likewise provide a quick temporary solution to the incrediblly long back log.

  2. mexlaw81 says:

    sounds very ambitious, yet necessary. Hopefully these efforts will not be derailed by narrow-minded restrictionists, who unfortunately have permeated the American mind.

  3. I think this is a good plan, even though is going to take a very long time, but it could work. I don’t understand how the immigrants will benefit from this by paying back taxes, pay a fine then being sent to’ back of the line”. I think that would be a disadvantage for them. Overall, I’m happy for this new pathway that is going to help thousands of immigrants.

  4. Nudema Thompson says:

    This is too restricted! This is more for children and not adults. Immigration reform has never restricted children. What about the immigrants who are uneducated. When I had applied for Immigration reformed Act I did not have a degree at the time. Look how benefificial I was to your campaign before and after election! What would have happenned to President Obama if you had done an Immigratration reform act like this?

  5. Robert says:

    I just heard in the news that part of the reform is to eliminate the F3 and F4 categories of the family based visas. Didn’t hear anything about if the already applied applicants who have been approved will be affected negatively or will be part of the backlog already there. This is a sad blow for all those persons who wants to reunite with their families.

  6. sharif says:

    I just heard in the news that part of the reform is to eliminate the F3 and F4 categories of the family based visas. Didn’t hear anything about if the already applied applicants who have been approved will be affected negatively or will be part of the backlog already there. This is a sad blow for all those persons who wants to reunite with their families. what will be happening in new law?? pls answer

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