Over Presidents’ Day weekend U.S.A. Today obtained a copy of the White House's immigration plan. The plan seems to be very similar to the Senate’s Bipartisan immigration plan. I am a little puzzled over why Senator Marco Rubio (Republican of Florida) who is part of the Senate’s Bipartisan Commission on Immigration called the President’s plan “half-baked and seriously flawed.” He said its approval “would actually make our immigration problems worse.”
It’s possible that he fears that the President is trying to wrest credit from Congress and from the Republicans to cement the immigrant vote. It is possible that the President is trying to provide the Republicans with cover so that they can vote against the President’s plan but still vote for immigration reform. It is also possible that the plan was accidentally leaked to the paper.
The President’s plan provides for the following:
Pathway to Citizenship
- Undocumented immigrants living in the United States could apply for a newly created “Lawful Prospective Immigrant Visa,” which would not be the same as a green-card but would provide them with temporary legal status in the United States;
- People would need to pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa. If the visa is approved, they would be allowed to legally reside in the U.S. for four years, legally work in the United States and legally travel outside of the United States for short periods of time. After the four years, they could then apply for an extension of this visa for another four years;
- To qualify for this visa, immigrants would have to pay any back taxes, learn English and pay a penalty of probably a few hundred dollars;
- If the Lawful Prospective Immigrant Visa is approved, then the applicant can apply for the same provisional legal status for their spouse and children living outside of the United States;
- Undocumented immigrants would be ineligible for the program if they were convicted of a crime that led to a prison term of at least one year or three or more different crimes that resulted in a total of 90 days in jail, or if they committed a crime abroad that would make the person inadmissible to or deportable from the United States;
- People currently in removal proceedings would be allowed to apply for this visa, provided they otherwise qualify;
- These immigrants would receive a special identification card to show as proof of their legal status in the United States;
- After eight years or as soon as the immigration back-log is cleared (whichever comes sooner) the immigrants could apply for their green-cards. They would have to prove that they know English as well as the history and government of the United States and they would have to show proof of payment of back taxes; and,
- The plan calls for a reduction of the immigration backlog by getting rid of caps to immigration in certain categories and by temporarily increasing the number of immigrant visas available.
Security and Employment Provisions
- The plan provides for more security funding;
- The plan expands the E-Verify program that checks the immigration status of people seeking new jobs. Businesses with more than 1,000 employees must begin using the system within two years, businesses with more than 250 employees within three years and all businesses within four years. The ACLU has noted that this program will effectively create a federal list of all those in the United States who are eligible to work. If a person is not on the federal list s/he would not be able to work in the United States. This part of the plan could create serious privacy concerns;
- To combat fraud, the President’s plan proposes a new fraud-resistant, tamper resistant, and wear-resistant social security cards;
- Increase in Border Patrol officers;
- Technological improvements along the border; and,
- 140 new immigration judges to reduce the backlogs in immigration cases. The backlog in immigration cases is substantial; for example, right now in San Francisco, the immigration judges are scheduling deportation hearings for 2015.
Paying For The Program
- The plan calls for Customs and Border Protection to study whether a land-border crossing fee should be implemented to help offset border security costs;
- It calls for an increase in inspection fees that border-crossers already pay;
- It allows for the Department of Homeland Security to accept donations from citizens, businesses, local governments, and state governments to improve the ports of entry and security features along the border. Just imagine, The Costco Border Crossing.
The President’s plan differs from the Senate’s bi-partisan plan in that legal status for undocumented immigrants does not hinge upon securing the border, while it does call for increased border security. It is also different in that there is no mention of a guest-worker program to handle future flows of immigrants for agriculture and low-tech jobs.
AFL-CIO/U.S. Chamber of Commerce Plan
While the President and Congress have been working on their immigration plans, the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been negotiating plans for changing the immigration system in the United States. Earlier this week, the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce issued a joint statement setting forth three principles to guide legislation in bringing lesser skilled workers to the United States:
- First, American workers should have the “first crack” at available jobs. Business and labor must improve the way that job listings in lesser-skilled occupations reaches the maximum number of workers, particularly those in disadvantaged communities;
- Second, the plan calls for a worker visa program that responds to the needs of business while fully protecting the wages and working conditions of American workers. The plan calls for a market-driven mechanism that permits businesses to hire foreign workers without having to go through a cumbersome and inefficient process; and,
- Third, the plan calls for the establishment of a new federal executive agency that would use real-world data about labor markets and demographics to determine whether there are labor shortages that could be filled by immigrant workers.
The AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce joint statement seems to recognize that there is a need in the United States for both high-skilled and low-skilled workers and addresses the need of business for additional workers while protecting the rights and wages, and working conditions of American workers.
Next topic: Immigrants and Welfare