Immigration Compromise Reached by Senators

May 17th, 2007

A bipartisan group of senators reached a momentous compromise today on comprehensive immigration reform.  It would offer the nation’s 12 million undocumented workers a route to legal status. It will be brought to the floor of the Senate on Monday for debate and the senators hope to vote on it before they leave for the Memorial Day.  The House of Representatives will most likely offer their own bill after the Senate presents one.

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a Fact Sheet summarizing the provisions of this reform legislation.  It includes the following:

1.  Border security and mandatory employment verification must first be met before other elements of the proposal are implemented. 

2.  Employers will be required to verify the work authorization of all employees using an employment eligibility verification system.  Workers will be required to present more verifiable identity documents.

3.  It creates a temporary worker program, under which the temporary workers will be limited to three two-year terms and will be required to leave the US for one year between renewals.  They will be able to bring immediate family members as long as they can show their financial ability to support them and that they carry health insurance.

4.  A “Z visa” will be created for illegal immigrants in the U.S.  They must pass a background check, remain employed, have a clear criminal record, pay a fine of $1,000 and receive a counterfeit-proof biometric card.  Years later, the Z visa holder may apply for legal permanent residency, but only after paying an additional $4,000 fine, completing English requirements waiting at the back of the visa backlog line, returning to their home country to file for their green card and demonstrating merit under a merit-based system.

5.  A merit-based system will be established whereby immigrants will be selected based on their skills and attributes.  They will be assigned points for skills, education, ability to speak English, level of schooling, training in math, science or technology, family ties, job offer in a high-demand field and employer endorsement.

6.  It will end sponsorship for certain family members.  Visas for parents of US citizens will be limited.  Immigrant visas for siblings and adult children will be eliminated.

7.  It will end the Diversity Lottery Program.

8.  It will clear the family backlog within 8 years (as opposed to some waits estimated at 30 years).