Immigration Reform Legislation Proposed by ‘Gang of Eight’
On Wednesday, April 17, the Senate “Gang of Eight” introduced its comprehensive immigration reform legislation titled “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.” PLANET is in the process of analyzing the 900 pages of legislation, but below is a summary of the major provisions. The legislation includes provisions on border security, the creation of a new “W” visa, a mandatory E-Verify system, and a route to legalization for individuals in unlawful status and makes changes to the existing H-2B program.
The legislation revises the existing H-2B program. The bill would reinstate the returning worker exemption through 2018 and includes language that is essentially the same as the 2008 wage methodology. However, the bill would require employers to pay incoming and outgoing transportation costs for the H-2B worker, including reasonable subsistence costs during the period of travel. Employers must certify and attest that they did not displace and will not displace U.S. workers in the same metropolitan statistical area within 90 days before the start and end dates of an H-2B worker’s employment.
The legislation would create a new “W-visa” program for low-skilled workers. Under the program, spouses and minor children of these workers would be allowed to accompany them to the United States and would also be given work authorization for the same period as the W-visa holder. Employers would need to register with the Department of Homeland Security and provide an estimated number of W-visa workers they would need.
All employers would be required to use the E-Verify system over a five-year phase-in period. Employers with more than 5,000 employees would be phased in within two years. Those with more than 500 employees would be phased in within three years. All employers, including agricultural employers, would be phased in within four years. As part of the system, every non-citizen would be required to show a “biometric work authorization card” or a “biometric green card.” Due process requirements are established so legal workers are not prevented from working because of errors in the system or because of employer negligence or misconduct.
The legislation would target high-risk sections, defined as an area with more than 30,000 apprehensions per year, of the southern U.S. border with Mexico for increased security. The bill would also increase border surveillance and detection funding by $3 billion, with an additional $1.5 billion for improved border fencing.
The proposed Senate legislation allows for those individuals in unlawful status to apply to adjust their status to the legal Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status. To be eligible for this status, individuals would have to have resided in the United States prior to Dec. 31, 2011, have maintained continuous physical presence since then, and have paid a $500 penalty fee, assessed taxes, per adult applicant in addition to all applicable fees required to pay for the cost of processing the application.
Those ineligible include those who have been convicted of an aggravated felony, convicted of a felony, convicted of three or more misdemeanors, convicted of an offense under foreign law, unlawfully voted, and inadmissible for criminal, national security, public health, or other morality grounds.
After 10 years, aliens in RPI status may adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident status through the same merit-based system everyone else must use to earn a green card if the following things have occurred:
1. The alien maintained continuous physical presence.
2. They paid all taxes owed during the period that they are in status as an RPI.
3. They worked in the United States regularly.
4. They have demonstrated knowledge of civics and English.
5. All people currently waiting for family and employment green cards as of the date of enactment have had their priority date become current.
6. They have paid a $1,000 penalty fee.
Those individuals in DREAM Act Status and the Agricultural Program can get their green cards in five years and DREAM Act children will be eligible for citizenship immediately after they get their green cards.
PLANET is continuing to analyze the Senate proposed bill and will provide updates as we assess the impacts of the legislation on our members.