California Senator Supports Immigration Law Proposal

California Senator Feinstein is amongst a group of Democratic Senators (including Senate Marjoity leader Reid, and Senators Durbin, Schumer, Leahy, and Menendez) that set forth an immigration law reform "proposal" last week, called the Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform (REPAIR) Proposal. This proposal is not an actual bill, or a proposed bill. It is a "proposal". While it is a purely Democratic proposal, it contains provisions that show a willingness to reach out to Republications and incorporate the immigration reforms critical to any Republican support.

The proposal acknowledges that in order to accomplish any immigration reform, achieving greater border security and improving methods for fighting crimes connected to illegal immigration is a prerequisite to addressing the millions of undocumented immigrants living here. The proposal addresses: (1) increased border enforcement, (2) increased interior enforcement; (3) biometric identification and employment verification; (4) family and employment visas; and (5) registration and legalization of the millions of undocumented immigrants living here.

As an immigration lawyer often representing highly-skilled foreign nationals, the most exciting provision is the change for graduates of U.S. universities. Graduates of U.S. universities obtaining advanced degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, who have an offer of employment from a U.S employer in a field related to their degree, would be eligible for a green card. As has been said repeatedly on this blog, it only makes sense to allow these folks to remain in the U.S. and use their intelligence and knowledge to benefit the U.S.

The proposal would, however, increase restrictions on the H-1B and L-1 program. It appears that H-1B employers might be required to advertise job openings, and they would also be limited in the number of H-1B workers in the company. The proposal also addresses lower-skilled agricultural and non-agricultural employment.

To address the millions of undocumented people, the proposal creates a two?phase plan that leads to permanent residence. Phase I requires all undocumented persons to come forward and register their presence through a rigorous process that includes identity, criminal background and security screening, fingerprinting, and the payment of fees, civil penalties and taxes. Upon completing registration, they will be considered for eligibility for a new interim status: "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" (LPI). In addition to the above requirements, undocumented persons must remain in the country continuously from the date of enactment to be eligible for LPI status. Those who fail to register will remain undocumented and be subject to arrest and deportation. Those not eligible, based on various criminal and national security provisions, will be subject to deportation.

Phase II begins eight years after enactment, at which time LPIs will be permitted to petition for adjustment to Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status. Requirements for eligibility include demonstrating basic citizenship skills, English language skills, and continuous residence in the United States; submitting to additional background and security checks; payment of all taxes, fees and civil penalties; and registration for Selective Service.

Securing borders and increasing interior enforcement would be accomplished with greater resources in personnel, infrastructure, and technology for the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE), and the immigration courts, and creating new criminal laws. The proposal would create a bipartisan commission to evaluate progress and make recommendations to Congress. In response to the latest Arizona law, and other state's immigration laws, once complete border control is established state and local governments would be barred from enacting their own immigration laws.

To prevent employment of unauthorized workers, the proposal calls for a new biometric Social Security card and a new employment verification system. The proposal goes into detail about the new employment verification system called BELIEVE (Biometric Enrollment Locally?stored Information, and Electronic Verification of Employment (BELIEVE) System.) This system would be phased in over six years. The section also requires the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to establish a national birth and death record system to further prevent the hiring of unauthorized workers.

Although this proposal is not a bill, it is a step in the right direction because it is comprehensive and allows room for bi-partisan input.

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee