U.S. Senators Reach Deal On Immigration Changes

by Joseph G. Lariosa

 

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) —  A “tough but fair” path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States will be adopted only if the borders are secure and if there is tracking mechanism that can tell if legal immigrants have left the country when required.

This was one of the four basic legislative pillars unveiled Monday (Jan. 28) by eight U.S. Senators led by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) in Washington, D.C. after months of negotiations by the bipartisan group.

Durbin, joined by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), said that “our immigration system is broken” and he “proposed a comprehensive set of principles, which include giving immigrants a path to citizenship, strengthening border security, and reforming our legal immigration system to reunite families and strengthen our economy while protecting American workers.

The announcement came ahead of a major announcement on immigration reform that President Barack Obama delivered in Las Vegas, Nevada on Jan. 29.

The urgency of passing a comprehensive immigration reform this year was spurred by the result of the presidential elections last November, which resulted in the overwhelming support of the immigrant communities for Mr. Obama. 73 percent of Asian Americans carried Obama, second only to African Americans’ 93 percent support and Latinos support at 71 percent. The immigrant communities were largely ignored by Obama’s Republican rival Mitt Romney.

“We are committed to fixing our nation’s broken immigration system,” according to Mr. Durbin, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, through which immigration reform will pass. He was also the author of the DREAM Act, a narrowly tailored bill to give undocumented students a chance to earn citizenship if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and attend college or serve in the military. Senator Durbin first introduced the DREAM Act in 2001. In 2010, the DREAM Act passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 216-198 but failed in the Senate by a 55-41 vote, five votes short of filibuster-free 60-supermajority votes.

The broken immigration system has created a situation where up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows. The legislation will finally commit “the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here. We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited.”

THREE OTHER PILLARS

The other pillars of the immigration principles are:

  • Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
  • Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,
  • Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

Among the steps to secure the border is the increase the number of unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance equipment, improve radio interoperability and increase the number of agents at and between ports of entry. The purpose is to substantially lower the number of successful illegal border crossings while continuing to facilitate commerce.

There will also be enhancement of training of border patrol agents who will be prohibited from racial profiling and applying inappropriate use of force on entrants, increasing oversight, and creating a mechanism to ensure a meaningful opportunity for border communities to share input, including critiques.

The legislation will require the completion of an entry-exit system that tracks whether all persons entering the United States on temporary visas via airports and seaports have left the country as required by law.

To get input from Americans living along the Southwest border, who are keys to recognizing and understanding when the border are truly secure, the legislation will create a commission comprised of governors, attorneys general, and community leaders living along the Southwest border to monitor the progress of securing our border and to make a recommendation regarding when the bill’s security measures outlined in the legislation are completed.

THOSE IN THE COUNTRY WILL REGISTER WITH THE GOVERNMENT

While these security measures are being put into place, the legislation will simultaneously require those who came or remained in the United States without permission to register with the government. This will include passing a background check and settling their debt to society by paying fine and back taxes, in order to earn probationary legal status, which will allow them to live and work legally in the United States.

Individuals with a serious criminal background or others who pose a threat to national security will be ineligible for legal status and subject to deportation. Illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes face immediate deportation.

Only after it is demonstrated that the borders are secured and mechanisms that will combat visa overstays are completed when any immigrant on probationary status can earn green card.

Current restrictions preventing non-immigrants from accessing federal public benefits will also apply to lawful probationary immigrants.

Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. Those individuals who successfully complete these requirements can eventually earn a green card.

Individuals who are present without lawful status – not including people within the two categories identified below – will only receive a green card after every individual who is already waiting in line for a green card, at the time this legislation is enacted, has received their green card. The purpose is to ensure that no one, who has violated America’s immigration laws, will receive preferential treatment as they relate to those individuals who have complied with the law.

For instance, individuals, who entered the United States, as minor children did not knowingly choose to violate any immigration laws, will not face the same requirements as other individuals in order to earn a path to citizenship.

Similarly, individuals, who have been working without legal status in the United States agricultural industry and have been performing very important and difficult work to maintain America’s food supply while earning subsistence wages, and due to the utmost importance in the nation for maintaining the safety of its food supply, agricultural workers who commit to the long term stability of our nation’s agricultural industries, will be treated differently than the rest of the undocumented population because of the role they play in ensuring that Americans have safe and secure agricultural products to sell and consume. These individuals will earn a path to citizenship through a different process under our new agricultural worker program.

The new immigration system will be more focused on recognizing the important characteristics, which will help build the American economy and strengthen American families. It will reduce backlogs in the family and employment visa categories so that future immigrants view the future legal immigration system as the exclusive means for entry into the United States.

The new legislation will attract jobs and keep the world’s best and brightest by awarding green cards to immigrants who have received a PhD or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from an American university. “It makes no sense to educate the world’s future innovators and entrepreneurs only to ultimately force them to leave our country at the moment they are most able to contribute to our economy,” according to a press handout of Senator Durbin’s office’s press spokesman John Normoyle.

HOLD EMPLOYERS ACCOUNTABLE FOR KNOWINGLY HIRING ILLEGALS

The new immigration system will reduce future illegal immigration by developing a tough, fair, effective, fast and mandatory employment verification system that will hold employers accountable for knowingly hiring undocumented workers and making it more difficult for unauthorized immigrants to falsify documents to obtain employment. Employers, who knowingly hire unauthorized workers, will face stiff fines and criminal penalties for egregious offenses.

The employment verification system will prevent identify theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers thru non-forgeable electronic means prior to obtaining employment. This will also safeguard American workers and provide due process protections.

As a result of the apprehension of 327,000 illegal entrants in 2011, seeking employment, the legislation will prevent “future waves of illegal immigration in a humane and effective system” without seeking the aid of human traffickers or drug cartels.
Businesses will be allowed to hire lower-skilled workers in a timely manner when Americans are unavailable or unwilling to fill those jobs and will not displace American workers.

The legislation will create a program to meet the needs of America’s agricultural industry, including dairy to find agricultural workers when American workers are not available to fill open positions.

Although more lower-skilled immigrants will be allowed to come to the U.S. when economy is creating jobs, the legislation will restrict entry of lower-skilled immigrants when “economy is not creating jobs.”

The legislation will also protect workers by ensuring strong labor protections and grant green cards those workers, who have succeeded in the workplace and contributed to their communities over many years. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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PHOTO CAPTION

PRESSCON ON IMMIGRATION REFORM – Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (on the rostrum) (D-IL) was joined at a news conference  in Washington D.C. announcing a series of principles to guide comprehensive immigration reform by Senators (from left) John McCain (R-AZ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

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