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The Senate’s Immigration Reform Bill – A Compromise But Is Anyone Happy?

If you look up the word “compromise” on Google, this is the result you will get: Com·pro·mise (‘kämprǝ mīz/): noun An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions. By all accounts, the Senate’s recent immigration reform bill, Border Security Economic Opportunity Immigration Modernization Act 2013 (BSEOIMA), released today, is precisely a compromise. No one side is going to be completely happy but everyone gets a little bit of something. After all, didn’t we all agree that our immigration system needed fixing?

Start Here

So far, the Senate has released to the general public a 17-page outline of the BSEOIMA. [They could have picked a better acronym!] The outline is definitely a good read and very informative. The full version of the bill is hundreds of pages long and has yet to be officially introduced to the Senate and available online (as of the time of publication of this article).

[Updated 4/17/2013: The full bill was posted online and available here.]

Then Go Here

The Washington Post provides a detailed and well-written summary of the outline. You can also read interesting commentary from Steve Case, Elise Foley and Julia Preston. The Senate will conduct a hearing this Friday, with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano testifying. Members will likely begin considering the bill this weekend.

Is Anyone Happy?

Can you ever win over a critic? Under the BSEOIMA, what were some of the biggest upsets and wins? Below is a very brief recap so visit the full summary for more details:

Border Security Requirements: The Senate is not letting DHS off the hook very easily. It is requiring DHS to quantify its success rate on removals and apprehensions, essentially forcing it to be accountable for producing meaningful results. Appropriates for more border fences, technology on tracking overstays in the country, and more Customs agents are all indicated in the bill.
Registered Provisional Immigrant Status (RPIs): The ability of foreign nationals who are undocumented or overstayed to obtain legal permanent residence and ultimately citizenship is directly tied to the success of the border security. Carve-outs have been made for DREAM Act eligible childhood arrivals.
Family Categories Eliminated: It appears the Senate had to make some concessions in order to reduce the visa backlogs, specifically the family visa backlogs. Siblings of U.S. citizens will no longer qualify for immigrant visas. The other family preference categories will be re-prioritized. Immediate relatives will be redefined to include spouse and children of Legal Permanent Residents.
Diversity Lottery Eliminated: This program would be repealed almost immediately.
Innovation and Competitiveness: Doctoral Degree holders in any field will receive unlimited limits on immigrant visas. Provisions have been made for STEM graduates with a doctoral and master’s degrees. Start-up founders will also receive a special carve-out visa.
Implementation of Merit-Based Visas System: The system would award points based on education levels, employment, and length of residence in the U.S. and family connections.
Mandatory E-Verify: This was inevitable. The bill proposes more refinements to the system to reduce identity theft and document fraud. Depending on the number of employees, employers will have anywhere between 2-4 years to enroll in and implement the system. [We’ll have more updates on our I-9 and E-Verify Blog.]
Increase in H-1B Visas with Restrictions: H-1B visas will be increased but so too will its requirements. The bill will require a test of the labor market, mechanisms to protect foreign workers from employer abuse, allow work authorization for spouses under a reciprocal agreement with the U.S., and other provisions that mainly target “consulting” agencies that are primarily made up of foreign workers.
Guest Worker “W” Visa: No surprise the Senate adopted much of the provisions outlined in the AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce agreement we summarized in a prior article here.
Agricultural Card for Workers: Agricultural workers will have an opportunity to obtain legal status.
The bill will likely undergo many rounds of amendments. Even if it were to survive committee review and gain passage in the Senate, the bill must survive the House of Representatives. The fact that we can even write about an immigration proposal today is a feat in itself. Stay tuned for more updates on immigration review by subscribing to this blog. Please send us your comments, concerns and suggestions. We’d love to hear from you!