I have been reading the comments on my blog posts and am taking this opportunity to respond to them. Some readers are disappointed that I am not putting forth my opinions on this blog. The purpose of this blog is to cut through the noise and to present the facts on immigration—not opinion. It is easy to find opinions on immigration—just go to MSNBC or to Fox News. This blog presents the facts, cuts through the noise and allows the readers to come to their own conclusions. Now, let's discuss the Senate plan on Comprehensive Immigration Reform:
On Jan. 27, a bipartisan group of eight senators introduced their framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. (Charles Schumer, D. NY; John McCain, R. AZ; Richard Durbin, D. IL; Lindsay Graham, R. S.C.; Robert Menendez, D. NJ; Marco Rubio, R. FL., Michael Bennett, D. CO.; and, Jeff Flake, R. AZ). This plan has four main components:
- Create a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States. Unauthorized immigrants will not be able to obtain lawful permanent resident status (green-cards) or citizenship until the borders are secure and the Government has implement a program to track whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
- Reform the legal system to help the American economy and to strengthen American families;
- Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of unauthorized workers; and,
- Establish a process for admitting further workers to meet our nation’s needs, while simultaneously protecting U.S. workers.
Path to Citizenship Once The Borders Are Secure
To better secure the borders, the Senate bipartisan plan calls for improved infrastructure at the border, providing Border Patrol with the latest technology and with the necessary personnel to prevent, detect, and apprehend every unauthorized entrant.
As I mentioned in my previous post “Is the U.S. Border Secure?" in 2011 the United States government spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement. By contrast, that same year, the government spent a total of $14.4 billion on the rest of federal law enforcement combined including the FBI, the Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Additionally, in 2011, there was no net migration from Mexico to the United States.
The legislation calls for an increase in the number of drones and surveillance equipment at the border and for an increase in the number of border patrol agents. Right now Border Patrol uses nine predator drones and 14 manned P-3 Orion aircraft. In 2011, the drones helped to intercept 7,600 pounds of marijuana. The manned P-3 Orion aircraft helped intercept 148,000 pounds of cocaine.
As for an increase in border patrol agents, right now their number is at a historic high. According to the Customs and Border Protection website, in 1993 there were 4,028 border patrol agents nation-wide; 10 years later, in 2003, there were 10,717 agents; and today there are 21,394 agents.
The legislation calls for increased training and oversight of border patrol agents to reduce racial profiling and the inappropriate use of force. It calls for an entry-exit system that tracks whether all persons entering the United States on temporary visas via airports and seaports leave the country when their visas expire. It calls for a commission of governors, attorneys general, and community leaders living along the Southwest border to monitor the progress of securing the border and to make a recommendation regarding when the bill’s security measures are completed.
While these security measures are being implemented, the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States will be required to register with the government, pass a background check, pay a fine, show proof of payment of back taxes and will earn probationary legal status which will allow them to live and work in the United States legally.
Probationary status will be different from permanent resident status (having a green card) because these people will not be allowed to count the years that they are living in the United States in this status toward citizenship, they will not be able to file immigrant visa petitions for minor children or spouses living outside the U.S., and it is unclear if they will be able to travel outside of the U.S. while on this status. Like most immigrants, people on probationary status will be unable to access any federal public benefits.
Once the government believes that the border is secure, individuals on probationary status will be eligible to get their green cards. Now here is where it gets very tricky, first, how does the government determine that the border is secure? Will it rely on opinion polls or will it rely on an objective framework such as the number of border patrol agents nation-wide or on the level of migration from Mexico and Canada? It is unclear.
The framework provides that to be eligible to obtain green cards, the applicants will have to pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, and demonstrate a history of work in the United States and demonstrate current employment. Plus, the applicants will have to go to the “back of the line” in order to immigrate. According to the Department of State, the line stretches back for 24.5 years—brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who are from the Philippines. It’s possible that in probationary status will have to wait 25 years to get their green cards.
According to some well-known immigration attorneys, when you actually do the math, the line to get an immigrant visa can be as long as 395 years. David Simmons, an immigration attorney in Colorado, states, “it's not enough to know how long the line is. You need to know how fast the line moves. Just like at the supermarket. The wait for someone getting a visa today was as long as 24 years. The wait for someone starting today is much longer. An extreme example is [unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents from Mexico who are 21 or older]. The last time I took the difference between the cut-off date and the present date, then factored in the rate of "advance," the anticipated delay for someone applying today under that category was 395 years. [Unmarried sons and daughters from Mexico who were 21 or older] was "only" about 80-85 years. Please be advised that I have not verified this mathematical equation.
The Senate plan provides that two groups of undocumented immigrants will not have to “get to the back of the line” to get their green cards: 1) People who entered the United States as minor children and did not knowingly choose to violate any immigration laws; and, 2) agricultural workers.
Changes In The Immigration System
The Senate framework discusses the importance of building the American economy and strengthening American families. The framework discusses reducing backlogs in family-based and in employment-based immigration. It is unclear how the Senate framework plans to reduce the back-logs. The framework also proposes giving green cards to all students who have received a doctoral or master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from an American university.
Strong Employment Verification
The Senate framework calls for an employment verification system that holds employers accountable for knowingly hiring undocumented immigrations and to make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to falsify documents to obtain employment. Employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers will face stiff fines and criminal penalties for “egregious” offenses.
Admitting New Workers and Protecting Workers’ Rights
The Senate plan recognizes a need for lower-skilled workers in the United States. The framework calls for a program to enable business to hire lower-skilled workers quickly when U.S. workers are unavailable or unwilling to fill those jobs. The proposed Senate legislation would allow employers to hire immigrants if the employer can show that they could not recruit a U.S. worker for the job and hiring the immigrant would not displace U.S. workers.
The Senate commission proposes creating a special agriculture program to hire immigrants when U.S. workers are not available to fill open positions. The Senate would allow more lower-skilled immigrants to come to the U.S. when the economy is creating jobs and fewer when the economy is not creating jobs. The Senate plan calls for strong labor protections and for eventual green cards for people who have “succeeded in the workplace and contributed to their communities over many years … .”
The Senate bipartisan plan rethinks immigration policy, provides for secure borders, and provides a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Next Post: The President’s Immigration Plan