Senate Bill 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, has been introduced and is being debated in the U.S. Senate. The 844-page bill is a result of the work of the bipartisan “Gang of 8”–four Democrats and four Republicans who have been meeting together to draft an immigration reform bill that both parties could potentially support. The outline of the bill is 17 pages long, but I will cover the biggest points here. First, there is a heavy emphasis on enforcement. The bill would allocate billions of dollars to border security and would make E-verify employment verification mandatory nationwide. Second, there is a legalization program called Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) Status that would legalize many of the currently undocumented persons in the U.S. and allow them, after a 10-year period, to apply for lawful permanent residence (green card). The legalization program would apply only to persons who have continuously resided in the U.S. prior to January 1, 2012, who pay penalties and fees, and who have not been convicted of a felony, an aggravated felony, or three or more misdemeanors. Prior to applying for permanent residence, such individuals would have to demonstrate that they have paid taxes, worked regularly, and pass a government and English language test. DREAM Act applicants and certain agricultural workers would be able to apply for green cards after only five years of RPI status. The bill would alter the current family immigration law by granting immediate relative status to spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents and by eliminating sibling petitions by U.S. citizens. The bill would eliminated the Diversity Visa lottery program. On the employment immigration side, the bill would eliminate quotas for persons in the EB-1 category and increase the annual caps for the remaining employment categories. Finally, the bill would introduce a new “merit-based” visa that would allow permanent residence for persons who accumulated points based on the length of residency, level of education, type of employment, and the existence of family members in the U.S. The H-1B visa would be significantly revised by increasing the quota but making the application process more expensive and strenuous, including a requirement to recruit U.S. workers. A new “W” visa would be created for low-skill workers, the numbers of which would be determined by the economic demand for labor. Special accommodations would be made for agricultural workers. So, the bill is obviously very long and complicated and is sure to be amended and modified during debate. But it is a promising start to the long-needed process of updating the immigration law. S.744 is being debated in the Senate, but this does not mean that we have a new law. We don’t. This is the very beginning of a long process that will probably not be completed until the fall, if it makes it that far. THERE IS NO IMMIGRATION REFORM OR TEMPORARY STATUS TO APPLY FOR RIGHT NOW. DO NOT GIVE YOUR MONEY TO ANYONE CLAIMING TO PRE-REGISTER OR OBTAIN TEMPORARY WORK AUTHORIZATION BASED ON AN IMMIGRATION REFORM OR AMNESTY PROGRAM.
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