The Gang of 8 immigration reform proposal is finally public.
After months of not so public discussions, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, as it will be called, will be formally filed today.
According to the release statement, public hearings will start Friday. If passed as written, here is what immigration reform will look like:
- Border Security
- Increased surveillance and fencing along the southern border
- Additional personnel will be hired, primarily along the Southern border
- Prosecution of illegal border crossings will increase
- Improved inter-agency communication and cooperation
- Improved training
- Funding is provided along with increased funding for reimbursement to states
- Immigrant status changes are tied to implementation milestones
- Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI)
- Eligible if in the country before December 31, 2011. Spouses and children can be included if in the country. Persons currently pending removal may also apply
- Spouses, children, or parents of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who were deported for non-criminal reasons but who were in the country prior to December 31, 2011, may apply for re-entry. DREAM Act eligible children are also allowed to apply for re-entry.
- Application window is one year with an additional year extension allowed
- Must pass a criminal background check
- Pay $500 penalty, all owed taxes, and processing fee
- While in RPI status, immigrant is ineligible for any means-tested public assistance, certain tax credits, or benefits under Obamacare.
- May not apply for permanent resident status for 10 years; five years if Dream Act or Agricultural Program. Dream Act persons can immediately apply for citizenship once a permanent resident.
- RPI applicants for permanent residency go to the back of the line.
- Changes to legal immigration
- Eliminates the backlog for family and employment-based visas
- Expands definition of immediate relative
- Eliminates the Diversity Visa program after 2014
- Increases emphasis on highly skilled workers, those earning degrees, and entrepreneurs
- Creates a merit based visa
- Improves H-1B program while adding stricter provisions for employers to ensure U.S. workers are not disadvantaged
- Replaces the agricultural H-2A visa with a W-2 / W-3 visa, streamlining the process
- Provides for an expedited path to permanent residency, after payment of $400 fine and all back taxes and passing a criminal background check for farm workers and their families who have a proven “substantial prior commitment”.
- Creates a W-visa for unskilled workers. Employers are required to register and prove need.
- Replaces I-9 employment verification form with mandatory use of E-Verify
The debate will now begin. The goal of the Gang of Eight was to create legislation that would address the root causes of our illegal immigration problem. Based on the outline, they appear to have met their goal. The House is still working on their corresponding bill. We now have to wait for the legislative process to be completed.