Pretty big news out of DC tonight, as a bipartisan gang of eight reached an agreement on an outline for a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate. As always, the devil will be in the details, but for once, it appears as if something accomplished by one of these bipartisan "gangs" doesn't suck.
The group will fully unveil their plan Monday afternoon (in a clear attempt to try to steal some of the limelight from the President, who is releasing his plan on Tuesday). They shared an advance copy of their plan with Politico, and here's what we know so far:
There would be a pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million people here in this country with undocumented status. However, that pathway would be dependent on so far undefined "stricter border enforcement measures and new rules ensuring immigrants have left the country in compliance with their visas."
The plan would include the Dream Act, creating an expedited path for citizenship for children brought here illegally.
The plan would also create an expedited path to citizenship for seasonal farm workers.
An overhaul to the legal immigration system to attract highly skilled technical workers, as well as seasonal agriculture workers.
As expected, there will also be tougher enforcement mechanisms to ensure that employers are hiring legally.
The biggest concern to watch out for is what appears to be some sort of trigger mechanism in order to allow immigrants to pursue a path to citizenship. Here's what Politico has on that so far:
Before a pathway to citizenship can happen, the group says that new border security measures first must take effect, including an increase in the number of unmanned aerial vehicles and agents at the border, new rules tracking people entering the country on temporary visas and the creation of a commission of southwestern political and community leaders to ensure the new enforcement mechanisms take effect.The devils will clearly be in the details when this provision is drawn up. I think most of us have come to accept that in order to get comprehensive immigration reform, we are going to have to give the right some form of border militarization. I'm weary of what exactly a " commission of southwestern political and community leaders to ensure the new enforcement mechanisms take effect" is.
Assuming the path to citizenship takes effect, here is what that pathway would look like:
As those security measures take effect, the proposal says, illegal immigrants would be forced to register with the government, undergo a background check, and pay a fine and back taxes so they can obtain a legal status on a probationary basis. That would allow them to live and work legally in the United States, unless they have committed serious crimes, which could subject them to deportation. Those who have obtained probationary legal status would not be allowed to access federal benefits.A lot still needs to be worked out, but think about how far we've come. Due to the thumping that the Republican party has taken with Hispanics the last two elections, we're having a discussion that looked unthinkable six months ago: Republican leaders are discussing how to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
After the enforcement measures take effect, those who have obtained their probationary legal status would be required to undergo a series of requirements — including learning English and civics and undergoing further background checks — before being able to obtain permanent residency. The proposal insists that those who have entered the country illegally would not get preferential treatment over legal immigrants playing by the rules.
The only exceptions would be made for seasonal agricultural workers as well as young individuals who unknowingly entered the country illegally as children in a move similar to the DREAM Act proposal that has stalled in Congress for years.
The "Gang of Eight members include:
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
I'll update this diary with more information as I get it, as well as reactions from CIR advocates.
UPDATE: I read over the whole outline, and have some additional observations:
Temporary legal status would be available immediately for undocumented immigrants. They wouldn't have to wait until after the triggers take effect. The triggers only take effect in order to earn a green card. So they would be protected from deportation while the triggers support themselves out.
Green cards will only be issued to (non-dreamers) undocumented immigrants after all legal immigrants clear the cue, who are in line once the bill is passed. Does anyone know how long it would take the cue of current individuals waiting to all get a green card?
Individuals eligible for the Dream Act would not have to face the same waits and fines that other undocumented immigrants would. It would be unclear if the Dream Act would take effect immediately or after the triggers are completed.
Agricultural workers will not be subject to the same requirements as other undocumented immigrants and will be handled through a separate process. What this process entails has not been laid out yet.