Immigration Reform – How Will it Happen?

Eliza Grinberg's picture

On April 12, 2013, a bipartisan group of eight Senators unveiled legislation that offers the most radical change [PDF version] of the nation's immigration laws in nearly thirty years. Here is what they propose: At present, there are approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in this country. Most of them are hard-working people of good moral character, who have never been in trouble with the law. Such people could apply for a green card after 10 years of maintaining their good moral character, while in a provisional status, and then they will be able to file for naturalization (citizenship) in three years. Young people, who have benefited under the Dream Act provisions will be able to obtain green cards in five years, and be naturalized immediately thereafter.

It is proposed that such applicants will have to pay a $1,000 fine, have their income taxes paid for all of the years of their presence in the USA, learn English, maintain their employment and pass a criminal background check.

The proposed reform will cover all immigrants, who have arrived in the USA before January 1, 2012.

At the same time, the Border Security of the country will be improved by additional and improved fencing, hiring of 3,500 additional customs agents and new and improved surveillance drones. These efforts will primarily be directed at the southwest border with Mexico, where most of the illegal border crossings occur each year.The program will provide for additional funding to the DHS, if necessary, to ensure the most stringent measures of prevention of illegal border crossings into the USA. Also, a system will be put in place, to better monitor timely departures of all temporary foreign visitors or workers, so they would be prevented from overstaying their visas.

Within five years, all of the U.S. employers will be obligated to use the “E-verify” tracking system to make sure that all the workers they employ are legal residents. All legal resident non-citizen workers will be issued proper biometric documentation, to enable them to comply with the “E-verify” requirements.

It is planned, that employers who have large numbers of highly skilled engineers and computer programmers, working on H1B Visas will have to pay higher salaries, and higher government filing fees. At the same time, the Visa cap for highly skilled professionals would rise from 65,000 to 110,000, and then as high as 180,000 in future years.

A new visa program for low-skilled foreigners is planned to begin in 2015. At the start, only 20,000 visas per year will be available, but by 2019 the number of visas is proposed to increase to 75,000 per year. It is possible that the number of such visas will increase to 200,000 per year after the year of 2020. A new federal bureau will be created to analyze foreign guest-worker employment data. This program also allows for a “Safety-valve” for additional visas for workers, whose employers will pay higher wages. Agricultural workers will be limited to 337,000 visas over a three year period.

Family visa programs will undergo a tremendous overhaul. U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents will be equaled under the new law, and an unlimited number of visas will be immediately available to their foreign children, parents and spouses. Complete elimination of certain categories of visas eighteen months after the proposed law takes effect: those for foreign siblings of U.S. citizens and for married children over 30 years of age.

Instead of the Diversity Lottery system, employed at this time, a new merit-based point system is proposed for implementation. This system will do away with the randomness of the lottery, focusing instead on family ties and work skills of the applicants.

View the Gang of eight proposal [PDF version].

Immigration Reform – How Will it Happen?