Thursday, April 18, 2013


After the defeat of gun reforms, Congress now tackles the proposed comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill. The draft is a mixed bag of good (passage of the DREAM Act) and bad (elimination of visas for siblings and married children of US citizens) but it still has to run the gauntlet of law-making in a deeply-divided Congress.

Here is what we see as “good news”:

*DREAMers – young undocumented immigrants brought here by relatives – will be able to obtain green cards in 5 years and citizenship immediately thereafter.

*The estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who arrived here before Dec. 31, 2011 can legalize their stay by registering as “provisional immigrants” (after paying a $1,000 fine, back taxes, remain unemployed and pass a criminal background check) and could receive a green card after 10 years and apply for citizenship 3 years after that.

*Eliminates the backlog for family and employment-based visas (relatives of US citizens in the Philippines have the longest waiting period – in some cases over 20 years – next only to those from Mexico).

*Opens more employment opportunities in the US – especially for engineers and computer programmers (other fields include farm and construction workers) – where employers with large numbers of foreign workers will be required to pay higher salaries and fees.

And now the “bad news”:

*Eliminates visa categories for brothers and sisters of US citizens as well as married sons and daughters for US citizens who are 31 years or older, beginning 18 months after the law is enacted.

*Links border security improvements to the legalization of undocumented aliens under the Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) mechanism – the Department of Homeland Security must show Congress how it will secure the border with Mexico and certify when it is fully operational; full implementation of e-Verify; and capability to electronically track everyone who leaves the country.

Also, no immigrants in RPI status can apply for green cards until all people in the queue for family- or employment-based green cards when the law is enacted have been dealt with.

The proposed CIR bill also contains certain new provisions, among them:

*Merit-based visa. This new visa category will kick in 5 years after the law is enacted and awards points to individuals based on their education, employment, length of stay in the US and other considerations. A maximum of 250,000 visas will be made available for this. Initially, it will prioritize employment-based visas pending for 3 years and family-based petitions pending for 5 years. Between 2015 and 2021, a fixed percentage of those visas will be reserved for those who have employment- or family-based petitions pending on and after the law is enacted.

*Expand the V visa to allow individuals with an approved family petition to live in the US and allow certain family members to visit the US for up to 60 days a year.
*Creates a new visa category for foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a business in the US.

*Creates the new W guest-worker visa for low-skilled jobs that they can use from one employer to another (gives them 60 days to hunt for a job).  Their dependents are also eligible to get work permits.

*Employees will have the ability to “lock” their social security number under e-Verify so it cannot be used until they need to apply again for employment.

This proposed CIR bill, crafted by a bipartisan group – the so-called Gang of Eight – of Democratic and Republican senators has something for everyone to either love or hate, depending I guess on where you stand.

After presenting the plan to President Obama this morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who along with former GOP presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain is spearheading the CIR effort, pointed out that “No one’s going to get everything they want in a bill. But if we meet in the middle, we can do a lot of good for America.”

“This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me,” McCain added.

Fil-Am groups joined a massive protest on Capitol Hill last week, focusing on provisions eliminating visas for siblings and married children of US citizens. Judge David Valderrama, the 1st Fil-Am elected to a state legislature, said eliminating family visas “undermine our cherished values of family unit. America benefits when immigrant families come together. They work hard, pay taxes, buy homes and start job-creating businesses.”

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