New Immigration Reform Bill Proposed by U.S. Senate

New Immigration Reform Bill Proposed by U.S. Senate

April 17, 2013.

Good news from Reuters (emphasis is ours):

A group of Democratic and Republican senators on Tuesday unveiled long-awaited landmark legislation to remove the threat of deportation for millions of illegal immigrants and give them an opportunity to eventually become U.S. citizens.

Under the proposal, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before December 31, 2011, and had stayed in the country continuously could apply for “provisional” legal status as soon as six months after the bill is signed by the president.

But beyond that, they would have to wait a decade or more for full citizenship which would entitle them to federal benefits, while the government works on further securing U.S. borders and enforcing the new immigration law.

. . . .

Billions of dollars in new money would be funneled into additional border security to discourage people from avoiding detection as they crossed Mexico’s border with the United States.¬† The measure would focus on tightening porous zones in “high-risk” areas like parts of Arizona where law enforcement has had less success in sealing the border, in part because of a more difficult terrain.

The bill sets a goal of stopping 90 percent of illegal crossings at the riskiest sections of the southern border with Mexico, either by catching people or forcing them to go back to their country.

The bill, if passed, will make available visas for certain jobs:

The proposal would expand access to both low- and high-skilled labor for American businesses, attempting to keep organized labor happy with provisions designed to keep companies from hiring cheap foreign labor or filling jobs with immigrants when U.S. workers are available.

For the technology sector, it increases the number of visas available for educated workers filling specialized jobs, though it imposes new pay requirements designed to keep the hiring from depressing wages for U.S. technology workers.

Heavy lobbying, which could complicate passage, is already underway on the visa provisions, with the construction industry, for example, unhappy with a cap placed on the number of foreigners available for construction jobs. Still, one immigration expert who had been briefed on details of the measure before the outline was provided to reporters called it “a very smart, strategic and forward-looking bill.”

The most important part of the bill is what has become known as “the pathway to citizenship”:

For all the bill’s emphasis on border control and visas, the “pathway to citizenship” remained at its heart, even though the phrase was not used in the outline made available to reporters.

Within six months from enactment, during which time the Department of Homeland Security would set out its border security plan, the threat of deportation could end for most illegal immigrants. They would be allowed to work legally in the United States once they pay an initial $500 penalty and any back taxes, and if they can show they have not been convicted of a serious crime in the United States.

After 10 years the immigrants could apply for a “green card,” or permanent resident status, through an expanded merit-based immigration system. Those applications could be processed whether or not the government achieved a 90 percent success rate in securing border hot spots.

The green card would not be automatic, although a Senate aide said the majority of the 11 million illegal immigrants would likely get it via the merit-based visa. The total amount of penalties paid would amount to $2,000.

After the 10-year wait for a green card, it could take an additional three years to win U.S. citizenship.

The bill was crafted by four Democratic senators: Schumer, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republicans McCain, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida.

. . . .

The citizenship provisions have long been a goal of Democrats in Congress as well as of Obama, who has said he will submit his own immigration reform proposal should he find sufficient fault with the work of Congress.

It’s not too early to start preparing yourself to qualify for relief under the new immigration laws. One of the things all applicants will have to do is get caught up with the filing of their tax returns. The Pappas Group’s taxation division has been helping immigrant and non-immigrant taxpayers get current with their taxes for more than 20 years.

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