A Look at the Senate’s New Immigration Plan

I have been a proud member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) for well over 15 years.

AILA has done excellent work in many areas, advocating on behalf of foreign nationals from all over the globe.

This week, AILA took a look at the bill known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act introduced by the Senate’s Gang of 8. Just to remind you, that group consists of:

Republicans John McCain, Arizona; Marco Rubio, Florida; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; Jeff Flake, Arizona as well as Democrats Chuck Schumer, New York; Bob Menendez, New Jersey; Michael Bennet, Colorado; Dick Durbin, Illinois.

AILA looked at the 800-plus pages of the bill and made the following points, which I have amplified with data from a fine piece which ran yesterday in the Washington Post:

The proposal would offer aliens who are unlawfully present, with no felonies, and entry into the US before 12.31.11 to become Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPI). This application would require a $500 fine and payment of taxes.

RPIs could get work and travel permits.
RPIs could renew, after 6 years with another $500 fine, and apply for green cards for $1000 after 10 years.
RPIs would also be able to become US citizens 3 years after green card approval.

“DREAMers” typically associated with the Deferred Action program would benefit greatly. They could apply for green cards after 5 years and citizenship immediately, with 2 years in the military or 2 years of college

The bill also seeks to make green cards available to spouses of legal residents in the same manner as those married to US citizens.

It would eliminate the sibling category.

Doctoral degree holders and certain physicians and entrepreneurs would have an easier time attaining green card status.

A W visa would be created. This W is for lesser-skilled workers as well as those here for agricultural labor. W visas cannot convert to green card status.

The bill would additionally extinguish the one-year filing deadline for political asylum.

Furthermore, the plan would require all employers to be on the E-Verify system within 5 years.

The bill would increase H-1B quota to a minimum of 110,000 and a maximum of 180,000.

The visa lottery would be replaced by a merit system reviewing family ties, US work history and skills.

The bill does not address same-sex couples.

It would also make it a crime to knowingly defraud an immigrant or hold oneself out as an attorney. This measure would stop “notarios,” those who have traditionally scammed immigrants.

Finally, 6 months after the bill passes, Homeland Security must implement a strategy for stopping border crossers. The plan appropriates $4.5 billion for improved drones, more Border officers, and increased fencing. The National Guard would be allowed to be deployed to the border as well.

A dramatic next few months lie ahead, as hearings are held and the House weighs in. That said, even if half of this ambitious bill becomes law, it will improve our current immigration system in immeasurable ways.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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