Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The most recent immigration reform bill, S.744, was introduced by the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” on April 16, 2013 and passed in the Senate on June 27th. While the bill survived the Senate largely intact, it is now being sent to the Republican controlled House, where it will face further scrutiny. If the bill passes in the House, it will then go to President Obama, who has already said he will gladly sign it.

Of the bill’s over 800 pages, here are some of the key components of the proposed legislation’s:

  • Legalization! This would give legal status to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before December 31, 2011 by creating a category called Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI). Those who are eligible for this status would pay a fine and any back taxes, and would be given work and travel authorization. After 10 years as an RPI, they could apply for a green card, and later, citizenship.
  • Creation of a new visa type for temporary workers, called W visas. A W-1 would allow lesser-skilled workers a way to work in the country legally, while W-2 and W-3 visas would take the place of the H-2A agricultural worker program.
  • Spouses and children of legal permanent residents would be considered immediate relatives, and derivatives of immediate relatives would be allowed. As a result, the several years waiting period for spouse and children of legal permanent residents would be eliminated. The tradeoff is that the family-based preference category for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens would be eliminated, meaning that a United States citizen could no longer apply for a sibling.
  • Knowingly defrauding an immigrant, including by pretending to be an attorney or immigration representative, would become a crime.

Before passing in the Senate, an amendment was added that would increase border security provisions that are aimed a 90% success rate of preventing people from crossing into the U.S. from Mexico without authorization. While some people believe that these goals will be both ineffective and costly (roughly $30 billion), it seems that this addition will make it more likely that the bill will make it through the House. Moreover, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that the passage of this bill will reduce the Federal deficit by $900 billion over the next ten years, mostly from new taxes.  This is an important figure because it could help sway Republicans in the House to pass the bill.

Many Republicans have said that the bill does not do enough to protect the border and is not harsh enough on people who enter without permission, which could mean that they will add to the bill or not pass it all.  Prominent Republicans have said that they will not even vote on the bill unless a majority of Republicans support it.   However, we remain hopeful that this year we will finally have much-needed immigration reform.

In the meantime, it is important to remember that immigration reform has not yet passed. Until a law has been signed by the President, beware of anyone who claims they can file immigration paperwork for you now. Immigration consultants, notaries public, and notarios are not authorized immigration representatives and are unable represent you in the immigration process. Learn more at www.stopnotariofraud.org.

Stern & Curray attorneys will be updating our blog and our Facebook page with updates about this exciting, historic legislation. If you would like to join our immigration reform newsletter to receive updates about the bill, please email us at info@sterncurray.com.