S. 744 – the bipartisan bill, sponsored by Senator Charles Schumer was released to the public today. The 844 page document outlines a path to citizenship and addresses many of the pressing issues that create backlogs and inconsistencies within our immigration system.
As expected, the proposed legislation adds significant funding (~$3 billion) and resources to secure the southern border of the US. About half of the funds will be allocated to build a two-layered border fence, while the rest will pay for increased surveillance and man-power in the border region. Additionally, an electronic exit system will be instated at all sea and airports throughout the country for consistent record keeping.
To crack down on abuses in the employment-based categories, the bill calls for the implementation of an E-Verify system to check employment eligibility of all new hires. Employers heavily dependent (more than 50%) on foreign workers, will be punished with higher visa fees and limits on future foreign hires. At the same time, the H-1B cap for high-tech workers will be increased from 65,000/year to 110,000/year to meet growing demand in the industry. Finally, the spouses of H-1B workers will also be allowed a work permit, if their country of origin grants reciprocal benefits for US workers. New merit-based visa categories will be introduced, along with “new start-up visas” to promote the increase of immigrant entrepreneurs.
Long awaited relief may finally arrive in the provisions for the 11 million undocumented individuals who currently reside in the US. If they are found to be eligible (not presenting a threat to national security and having paid a fee to the government), these individuals can apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant Status (RPI). After successfully maintaining said status for 10 years (5 for DREAMERS), a provisional immigrant can file for Lawful Permanent Resident Status i.e. Green Card – with eligibility for citizenship another five years down the line. This entire process will require that the immigrants maintain good moral character (stay out of trouble – no felonies, or more than three misdemeanors), pay taxes and fees to adjust their status.
Lastly a new visa class will be introduced – W visa – for low skilled workers, which will replace the H-2A category. This status will be granted for up to three years (both at will and contract positions) and any potential employers must first register with the government and prove that their jobs necessitate the use of immigrant labor.
This seems like a solid list of amendments to fix a malfunctioning immigration system, however aspects of concern still remain. For example, there could be long delays in processing and backlogs, unless significant resources are dedicated to dealing with the huge influx of petitions which will be filed in the next 5-15 years.
At this point, the bill will take 3 full days just to read start to finish – but it is important to nail down all of the minutest details as it could mean creating one of the world’s most efficient, economical and fair immigration policies. Challenges still remain, especially considering heavy opposition in the house and difficult compromises will have to be made, but it looks like we are on the right path.
Read the entire bill here: http://cnsnews.com/sites/default/files/documents/Senate%20Immigration%20Bill.pdf