Derided by anti-immigration advocates, the bill is also questioned by supporters of green cards and immigration. Although it is generally an improvement over current legislation, it is lacking in a few key areas. For positive benefits, the bill will allow immigrants who arrived in the United States as children a path to citizenship. Over five years, these DREAMers will be able to gain permanent residence legally and then ultimately can become citizens. The 2013 immigration bill also allows judges more leeway to consider cases on an individual basis. Other reforms in the bill are designed to enhance immigration detention within the United States. Through this bill, the immigration detention centers and courts are supposed to become more efficient and fair.
For supporters of the bill, there are still a few remaining problems. Immigrants who want to become citizens will be completely excluded if they ever committed a minor crime in the past. The employment and income tests included in the bill are also often at odds with the actual economy and workforce. Another issue is that the bill will make billions of dollars available for border security. In addition to providing questionable border stops, the money will be taken out of taxpayer money for added surveillance and drones. Items like intrusive checkpoints and new personnel will be added. This makes financial resources for border security at an all-time high and will change the communities at the border. It also has the potential to limit the civil rights of American citizens and immigrants.
Another feature of the bill is the E-Verify system. Supporters of E-Verify believe that it will ensure only authorized workers can obtain a job. Detractors believe that the system is insecure and expensive. Systematic errors may cause residents and workers with a green card to lose their job. Technological issues and security problems may also cause privacy concerns like identity theft.
According to the bill, the border with Mexico will soon have 100 percent surveillance. This new measure is intended to catch and turn back 90 percent of the people who illegally cross the border each year. If this goal is not reached within five years, the bill allows for the creation of a Southern Border Security Commission. This commission would work with all of the border-state governments to figure out the best way to achieve a 90 percent efficacy rate.
The bill also requires the Homeland Security Department to create a plan that achieves these goals within six months of the bill being enacted. They must figure out how to use agents, drones and security measures to stop illegal immigration. In certain areas, more fencing may be put into place. To enact all of these measures, 3,500 Customs officials will be hired and the National Guard will be deployed along the border. The National Guard will be given the task of setting up a fence and creating checkpoints.
Funding will be given to increase prosecution for illegal border crossings. It will also be used to design more patrol stations and bases. Before illegal immigrants can become naturalized citizens or obtain a green card, the bill requires that all of these security and fencing plans be enacted. United States seaports and airports will also be enhanced to track all visitors that enter and exit the nations. Employers must also begin using the E-Verify system before illegal immigrants can be given a green card or citizenship.
Following the Path to Citizenship
Most experts believe that there are 11 million people who live in the United States illegally. These illegal immigrants would be granted a "registered provisional immigrant status". To be granted this status, six months has to pass after the enactment of the immigration reform bill. In addition, the fences must be in place and the border security must be enhanced. These individuals cannot have a felony conviction or more than three misdemeanors. Potential citizens must pay a $500 fine and arrive before December 21, 2011. As long as they have a provisional legal status, individuals can travel and work within the United States. They would not be allowed any federal benefits.
Every six years, the provisional legal status can be renewed with another payment of the fine. If they are deported for noncriminal reasons, individuals can re-enter legally as long as they have a spouse or child who is a permanent resident. Individuals may also re-enter if they originally arrived in the United States as a child. Once ten years have passed, all provisional status immigrants can receive a green card and become permanent residents. They must pay a $1,000 fine and be current on their taxes. In addition, they must physically live in the United States and learn English. If the applicants were originally brought into the United States as children, they can obtain a green card in five years. As soon as DREAMers have a green card, they can apply for citizenship.
Under the current laws, citizens can sponsor their spouse, children, sisters or brothers. These family members can enter the United States with certain limitations. Through the new bill, citizens cannot sponsor siblings. They are only allowed to sponsor married children if the son or daughter is younger than 31.
High-Skilled and Low-Skilled Workers
Currently, the cap on the H-1B program is for 65,000 high-skilled workers annually. This would be raised to 110,000 a year. Out of this number, 25,000 would be intended for people with advanced college degrees in math, engineering, science or technology from a school in the United States. Depending on demand, the cap could increase to 180,000. Companies that hire people with an H-1B visa before shipping them overseas again will be cracked down on while a new visa will become available to foreign entrepreneurs who want to create a company in the United States.
Immigrants who possess unusual abilities in education, athletics, science or business would not be included in the green card limits. Likewise, foreign-born nationals who graduate from universities in the United States can be exempt. This exemption only works for individuals with a job offer and a degree in science, math, technology or engineering.
The bill will create a merit visa that allows 250,000 new immigrants each year. These immigrants will be judged on their education, career field and length of residence in the United States. People who have the most points in this system will be granted a visa. To balance out these measures, the bill will get rid of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. In the past, this program allowed 55,000 random immigrants to enter the United States. This was originally done to encourage immigration from countries that traditionally have lower rates of immigrating to the US. Instead, the new bill is allocating visas to immigrants that have employment or merit ties.
Up to 200,000 low-skilled workers will be able to enter the country for jobs in construction, health care, hospitality and other workforce positions. Agricultural programs will be modified so immigrants who have worked in the field for two years can apply for a green card within a five-year time period.