On Wednesday, the bipartisan group of U.S. Senators known as the "Gang of Eight" introduced an 844-page bill that proposes to reform our country's immigration system. The bill, known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 ("Act"), is a major immigration reform proposal which addresses the issues of border security, legalization for undocumented workers, interior enforcement, and reforms to nonimmigrant visa programs.
Given the fierce debate over immigration reform in recent years, it is something of a miracle, and perhaps partly luck, that the proposed legislation exists at all. The bill proposes to create a pathway to citizenship for the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, including DREAMers and persons who entered the United States before December 31, 2011, now living in the United States. Another notable provision of the bill is the creation of additional visas to be awarded on the basis of merit, considering such factors as an individual's education, employment, and length of residence in the United States.
Unfortunately, the legislation would eliminate sibling sponsorship and would impose an age cap (31) on adult married children sponsored by their U.S. citizen parents. The diversity visa program which awards 55,000 immigrant visas annually to persons from countries with low admissions would also be jettisoned. Meanwhile, many undocumented individuals would not be able to adjust to lawful permanent resident status until DHS certified its compliance with a vague set of goals for securing the Southern border.
Some have already argued (falsely) that the proposed bill amounts to amnesty for undocumented immigrants and reflects a softened stance on enforcement. They are wrong; President Obama has deported a record number of individuals since taking office. Moreover, electronic verification of work authorization by employers would be mandatory for all, and individuals would have to pay fines and back taxes and wait many years before they could become citizens, leading to the potential creation of an American underclass. But for all of these flaws, the immigration system envisioned by the bipartisan plan is likely far and away better than what we have now.
The new bipartisan proposal has not been enacted yet. Since it does not have the force of law, nobody may apply for relief under the Act at this time. Nevertheless, America is finally within reach of a model for immigration that more closely reflects the times in which we live and the global economy in which we compete. Let's hope 2013 is the year in which our immigration system gets the fixes it so badly needs.
If you would like a consultation to discuss your immigration situation, then please call the San Jose Immigration Attorney at the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman today!