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Senators Announce New Proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Law
On April 16, 2013, eight U.S. Senators, known as the “Gang of Eight”, introduced a proposed new immigration law that could transform U.S. immigration law as we know it, and provide opportunities for many immigrants.
The proposed law provides that immigrants who entered the United States without permission or who remained after their permission to stay expired will have to register with the government, submit to a background check, and pay a fine and back taxes to be eligible to remain in the U.S. Such undocumented immigrants will be able to obtain a probationary legal status, which will include the ability to live and work legally in the United States.
Undocumented immigrants who have significant criminal records or who are deemed to pose a threat to national security will be ineligible to qualify for the probationary status.
Immigrants who receive probationary status will eventually be allowed to apply for lawful permanent residency (Green Card) after they pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, although it would take several years to do so.
The proposed law also addresses severely needed reforms to employment-based immigration law, including a much-needed increase on the cap of H-1B visas for highly-skilled workers, the creation of an entry-level workers visa, and exemptions to current quotas for holders of advanced degrees in areas such as science, technology, engineering, and math.
The proposed bill also provides that it is contingent upon increased border security, meaning that certain triggers could be put in place related to securing the border before some other aspects of the proposed law kick in.
There will be much debate during the next several months over the contents of the proposed law, including whether or not it grants “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants. Amnesty has become a political hot-button that is reviled by immigration opponents, although very few really understand what an “amnesty” is. Regardless of one’s view toward immigration reform, or “amnesty” as some call it, what is undeniably certain is that this country’s current immigration system has serious problems, and we are long overdue to fix it. While this proposed new law is not likely the final version we will see, let’s hope it is a major step in the right direction to tackle the immigration issues that so desperately need to be addressed.