immigration law since 1986, would offer 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship while tightening the border with Mexico and creating a guest-worker program to help employers fill low-paying jobs.
The proposed Immigration Reform and Amnesty included the following:
Undocumented Workers Currently in the United States:
- Undocumented workers could come forward immediately and receive probationary legal status.
- The Bill creates a four-year, renewable Z visa for those unlawfully residing within the U.S. before January 1, 2007.
- Undocumented immigrants may adjust status to lawful permanent residence once they pay $5,000 in fees and fines and their head of household returns to their home country.
- People under age 30 who were brought to the U.S. as minors could receive their green cards after three years, rather than eight.
- Undocumented farm workers who can demonstrate they have worked 150 hours or three years in agriculture can apply for green cards.
- No green cards for Z visa holders can be processed until “triggers” for border security and workplace enforcement have been met, which is estimated to take 18 months.
- Processing of green cards for holders of Z-visas would begin after clearing an existing backlog, which is expected to take 8 to 13 years.
- Hire 18,000 new border patrol agents.
- Erect 200 miles of vehicle barriers and 370 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Erect 70 ground-based radar and camera towers along the southern border.
- Deploy four unmanned aerial vehicles and supporting systems.
- End the program in which illegal immigrants are released upon apprehension (commonly know as catch and release).
- Provide structures for detaining up to 27,500 aliens per day on an annual basis.
- Employ secure and effective identification tools to prevent unauthorized work.
- Require employers to electronically verify new employees to prove identity and work eligibility.
- Increase penalties for unlawful hiring, employment, and record keeping violations.
Guest Worker Program (requires border security measures to be in place first):
- Create a new temporary guest worker program with two-year “Y visas,” initially capped at 400,000 per year with annual adjustments based on market fluctuations.
- Workers could renew the Y visa up to three times, but would be required to return home for a year in between each time. Those bringing dependents could obtain only one, nonrenewable, two-year visa.
- Families could accompany guest workers only if they could show proof of medical insurance and demonstrate that their wages were 150 percent above the poverty level.
Permanent Residence (Green Card) through the Point System:
- 380,000 visas a year would be awarded based on a point system, with about 50 percent based on employment criteria, 25 percent based on education, 15 percent on English proficiency, and 10 percent on family connections.
Other Changes to the Immigration System:
- Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents would be eligible for green cards based purely on their family connections, but other relatives such as adult children and siblings would not.
- New limits would apply to U.S. citizens seeking to bring foreign-born parents into the country.
- Visas for parents of U.S. citizens would be capped annually at 40,000 and those for spouses and children at 87,000.
Amnesty Bill Update
On June 29, 2007 the United States Senate killed the proposed comprehensive immigration legislation, ending chances for President George W. Bush to pass his immigration reform plan–a centerpiece of the president’s domestic agenda. Immigration reform supporters garnered just 46 of the 60 votes needed to conclude debate and proceed to final passage. Sixty senators, including 37 of Bush’s fellow Republicans, voted against it. Most senators said they had no plans to try to overhaul immigration law before the 2008 presidential election, so it is unlikely that any major immigration bill will become law until 2009. The biggest obstacle was to convince conservatives that the path to citizenship for illegal aliens is not Amnesty. The bill’s bitter end has a deeper meaning, as it demonstrated that conservative Americans’ vision for US immigration reform should not include any type of amnesty or legalization for undocumented workers.
“This vote effectively kills comprehensive immigration legislation in the 110th Congress” – said Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, head of a House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration.
The measure, the biggest rewrite of U.S. immigration law since 1986, would offer 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship while tightening the border with Mexico and creating a guest-worker program to help employers fill low-paying jobs.
President Bush, who had lobbied Republican senators to support the legislation, acknowledged defeat, stating, “Congress’s failure to act on it is a disappointment.” The Bush administration is still interested in finding the solution to the problem of illegal immigration, said Michael Chertoff, Bush’s homeland security secretary who helped draft the legislation.