On January 28, 2013, a bipartisan group of eight U.S. Senators, dubbed the Gang of Eight, including Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), unveiled a framework for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) that will serve as a foundation for a bill to be introduced and hopefully passed this year.
The four basic legislative pillars introduced in the proposed plan include visa reform, law enforcement, border security, a path to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. Below is a summary of the proposal. For a full text of the bipartisan framework for CIR, please click here.
Improving Legal Immigration System and Attracting the World’s Best and Brightest
- Develop a rational legal immigration system is essential to ensuring America’s future economic prosperity.
- Reduce backlogs in the family and employment visa categories so that future immigrants view our future legal immigration system as the exclusive means for entry into the United States.
- Award a green card to immigrants who have received a PhD or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from an American university.
Strong Employment Verification
- Develop a tough, fair, effective and mandatory employment verification system holding employers accountable for knowingly hiring undocumented workers and make it more difficult for unauthorized immigrants to falsify documents to obtain employment. Employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers must face stiff fines and criminal penalties for egregious offenses.
- Provide employers with a fast and reliable method to confirm whether new hires are legally authorized to work in the U.S.
- Create an effective employment verification system which prevents identity theft and ends the hiring of future unauthorized workers.
- Provide procedural safeguards to protect American workers, prevent identity theft, and provide due process protections.
Admitting New Workers and Protecting Workers’ Rights
- Create a humane and effective system for immigrant workers to enter the country and find employment without seeking the aid of human traffickers or drug cartels.
- Provide businesses with the ability to hire lower-skilled workers in a timely manner when Americans are unavailable or unwilling to fill those jobs.
- Allow employers to hire immigrants if it can be demonstrated that they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position and the hiring of an immigrant will not displace American workers.
- Create a workable program to meet the needs of America’s agricultural industry, including dairy to find agricultural workers when American workers are not available to fill open positions.
- Allow more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs, and fewer when our economy is not creating jobs.
- Protect workers by ensuring strong labor protections.
- Permit workers who have succeeded in the workplace and contributed to their communities over many years to earn green cards.
Creating a Path to Citizenship for Unauthorized Immigrants Already Here that is Contingent Upon Securing the Border and Combating Visa Overstays
- Provide a tough, fair, and practical roadmap to address the status of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. contingent upon success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays.
- Increase efforts of the Border Patrol by providing with the latest technology, infrastructure, and personnel needed to prevent, detect, and apprehend every unauthorized entrant.
- Increase the number of unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance equipment, improve radio interoperability and increase the number of agents at and between ports of entry to substantially lower the number of successful illegal border crossings while continuing to facilitate commerce.
- Strengthen prohibitions against racial profiling and inappropriate use of force, enhance the training of border patrol agents, increase oversight, and create a mechanism to ensure a meaningful opportunity for border communities to share input, including critiques.
- Require the completion of an entry-exit system that tracks whether all persons entering the United States on temporary visas via airports and seaports have left the country as required by law.
- Create a commission comprised of governors, attorneys general, and community leaders living along the Southwest border to monitor the progress of securing our border and to make a recommendation regarding when the bill’s security measures outlined in the legislation are completed.
- Require those who came or remained in the U.S. without permission to register with the government, including passing a background check and settling their debt to society by paying a fine and back taxes, in order to earn probationary legal status, allowing them to live and work legally in the U.S. Individuals with a serious criminal background or others who pose a threat to national security will be ineligible for legal status and subject to deportation. Illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes face immediate deportation.
- Require proposed enforcement measures be complete before any immigrant on probationary status can earn a green card.
- Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. Those individuals who successfully complete these requirements can eventually earn a green card.
- Individuals who are present without lawful status - not including people within the two categories identified below - will only receive a green card after every individual who is already waiting in line for a green card, at the time this legislation is enacted, has received their green card to ensure that no one who has violated America’s immigration laws will receive preferential treatment as they relate to those individuals who have complied with the law.
- Individuals who entered the United States as minor children did not knowingly choose to violate any immigration laws. Consequently, these individuals will not face the same requirements as other individuals in order to earn a path to citizenship.
- Agricultural workers who commit to the long term stability of our nation’s agricultural industries will be treated differently than the rest of the undocumented population because of the role they play in ensuring that Americans have safe and secure agricultural products to sell and consume. These individuals will earn a path to citizenship through a different process under our new agricultural worker program.