On April 16, 2013, a group of eight senators, led by South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham, who have been working together to reform our immigration system, introduced their legislation. The bill, S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is 844 pages.
The Senate bill proposes sweeping changes to nearly all aspects of the nation’s immigration laws and is split into five major provisions: Securing the border, legalization, legal immigration, interior enforcement and immigrant integration.
Here is a brief summary of some of the key provisions:
Securing the Border
- Requires the DHS Secretary to develop a Comprehensive Border Security Strategy and Southern Border Fencing Strategy within six months before the registration period for Registered Provisional Immigrant status (RPI) begins.
- These strategies must be designed to achieve persistent surveillance of the border and a 90% effectiveness rate for apprehensions and returns in high risk border sectors.
- The bill appropriates $3 billion for this plan which will include technology, personnel and other resources.
- The bill also contains a number of provisions to remedy or mitigate problems related to federal agent misconduct. Training is required for CBP officers, Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to cover, among other things, civil, human, constitutional and privacy rights.
This section provides a path to citizenship for the 11.5 undocumented immigrants in the United States.
- The bill offers most undocumented immigrants an opportunity to apply for legal status and, through a complicated and lengthy process, eventually obtain citizenship.
- Undocumented immigrants who were here since December 31, 2011, may apply for registered provisional immigrant status (RPI), which will provide work authorization, legal status and authorized travel abroad and return.
- The application would include a fee (to be determined), a fine of $500, payment of any taxes owed, and passing a criminal background check.
- The legislation sets up a separate path to legalize agricultural workers.
- A version of the DREAM Act is included in this legislation, allowing existing DACA beneficiaries to immediately obtain RPI status, and others who did not apply or did not qualify under the DACA policy, to apply as well, if they entered the United States before the age of 16.
Establishes a new framework for future legal immigration by revamping the current family and employment based systems and creating two additional merit-based immigration systems.
- Creates a new nonimmigrant visa for families with approved petitions to work and live in the U.S. while waiting for their green card.
- Establishes a new nonimmigrant W classification for lesser-skilled foreign workers performing services or labor for a registered employer in a registered position.· A new agricultural guest worker visa program would be established to provide a more stable agricultural workforce.
- This bill creates a new INVEST visa for foreign entrepreneurs who seek to come to the U.S. to start their own companies.
- Establishes significant new authorities and penalties to prevent, detect, and deter fraud and abuse of the H-1B and L-1 visa systems by fraudulent employers.
- The current family based categories will be revised to permit the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents to immigrate immediately.
- Additional provisions to streamline processing and reduce backlogs include elimination of employment based country caps, an increase in family based country limits, and recapture of unused visa numbers. Popular programs for foreign doctors, religious worker recruitment, and EB-5 investors are permanently reauthorized.
- Expands the authority of immigration judges and DHS to waive removal on humanitarian grounds.
This section mandates E-Verify, provides additional worker protections, reforms the immigration court system and provides additional measures related to interior enforcement.
- Includes protections for employers and employees, including pre-emption of state verification laws, expansion of U visas in employer abuse situations, and program funding. The bill also cracks down on labor recruitment abuse.
- Authorizes increase in immigration court personnel, additional resources, and more training for judges and other staff; access to counsel for vulnerable populations to improve efficiency of courts, and permanently codifies Board of Immigration Appeals and legal orientation programs.
- Increases oversight of detention facilities, expands the ability of immigration judges to conduct bond hearings, and expands alternatives to detention.
- Tightens certain grounds of inadmissibility relating to document and passport fraud, driving while intoxicated following three convictions, conviction for gang related activities, convictions related to domestic violence, child abuse, stalking, violation of protection orders and failing to register as a sex offender.
- Prohibits and or increases penalties for abusive smuggling, illegal entry, and re-entry.
- Creates a mandatory exit verification system for noncitizens leaving by air or sea ports of entry.
- Creates an Office of New Americans, a New Americans taskforce and additional initiatives to help immigrants learn English, American civics and integrate into local communities.
- A public/private United States Citizenship Foundation will provide funding for programs to help nonprofits and local government with these initiatives.
- Expands exemptions from the citizenship test for certain elderly immigrants.