By Reynold N. Mason
Atlanta, May 8, 2010. Last week, on the heels of the tough Arizona immigration law, that led to a storm of protests, demonstrations and and boycotts throughout the country, Senator Schumer introduced his proposal for Comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). The twenty-six page proposal lays out a framework for CIR. He expressed confidence that “…the fundamental building blocks are in place for CIR. The proposal, arguably in response to the furor caused by the new Arizona immigration law, would preclude states from passing their own rules and imposing their own penalties relating to immigration. It provides important changes for families seeking to have their children and spouses join them in the US, and clears a path for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship.
Under the proposal, undocumented immigrants will have to register, and submit to processing. That would entail fingerprinting, and other screening for criminal records or links to terrorism. Those who pass screening will be given Lawful Prospective Immigrant status. (LPI). LPI’s will be able to work and travel outside the country and, after eight years can petition for Lawful Permanent Resident status (LPR), if they meet other criteria, such as English language proficiency, continuous residence and payment of all taxes.
Spouses and children of “Green Card” holders will be considered immediate relatives and would no longer have to endure the long wait in a visa the preference category.
• R-1 visas which cover ministers and religious workers will become more readily available;
• A new category, property owners, will be created for those who desire to build housing in the US.
• The H-1 visa will be made readily available to attract more foreign doctors and nurses into the country
• Farm and dairy workers, would be paid no less than thirty three percent more than the minimum wage and the cost of transportation from and back to their home country.
• Non-seasonal workers would be issued a 3 year visa which can be renewed once, for 3 more years. After that time they can apply to become LPR’s.
• The proposal is heavy on enforcement, and border security and provides stringent rules for employment. Employers will be required to verify the status of all applicants before hiring them, or face severe penalties. There will be a new tamper-proof social security card that will contain fingerprints and other biometric data. This will be known as BELIEVE (Biometric Environment of Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment).
• Visitors, who overstay their visas, will be tracked and deported; a data base will be created to keep track of every entry and exit into and out of the country by B visa holders. This will be known as VISIT (Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology)
• Under the Visa waiver program (VWP) countries whose nationals habitually overstay their visas will lose their privilege altogether.
Prospects for passage
The prospect for adoption of CIR is unclear. Senator Lindsey Graham, who has worked with Senator Schumer on immigration reform for several months, has withdrawn his support because he wants to push for the passage of energy and climate change legislation ahead of CIR. He has said he will not support the bill this year.Others have voiced oppositions well. Labor unions, a perennial voice of opposition, is preparing to do battle. Backers of CIR are hopeful, but there are doubtful that congress will push CIR in an election year. The consensus is however, that CIR is a question of when not whether it will pass.