U.S Senator Robert Menendez and the members of the bipartisan "Gang of 8' today outlined the elements of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 during a press conference attended by an unprecedented coalition of labor, business, religious and Latino leaders, DREAMers and national and community organizations who want common-sense immigration reform.
"This bipartisan bill represents a significant milestone in our nation's efforts to fix our broken immigration system," said Menendez. "It is the most comprehensive immigration reform initiative in 3 decades and a game changer for millions of immigrants, DREAMers and those hoping to build a better life in America for themselves and their families. And it accomplishes something the American people have been asking for -- true bipartisan compromise."
The bipartisan proposal is structured to both secure our borders and provide a tough, but fair pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants who are already here in the United States. To do so, they must register for legal status, pass a background check, learn English, pay a fine and pay any necessary taxes as they work their way toward citizenship over time.
Menendez also worked hard to make sure the legislation recognizes the importance of family unity by allowing the immediate reunification of green card holders with their spouse and minor child. Going forward, people waiting for green cards in the family system can come to the U.S. to work and be with their families while they wait.
The broad collation of supporters at today's news conference included: Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO; Bruce Josten, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Eliseo Medina, Secretary-Treasurer, SEIU; Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities New York; Kevin Appleby, Director of Migration Policy and Public Affairs, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Alfonso Aguilar, Executive Director, Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles; Grover Norquist, Founder and President, Americans for Tax Reform; Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress; Clarissa Martinez, Director of Civic Engagement and Immigration, National Council of La Raza; Greg Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Chuck Conner, President, National Council of Farm Cooperatives; Andrea LaRue, Principal Federal Government Representative, United Farm Workers of America; Jeanette Acosta, Immigration Reform Field Director of the UFW Foundation; Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center; Gaby Pacheco, Immigrant Rights Leader; Tolu Olubunmi, DREAM Act Advocate; Max Sevillia, Director of Policy, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials; Dean Garfield, President and CEO, Information Technology Industry Council.
Last night, Menendez spoke to tens of thousands of people from across the nation -- community and religious leaders, immigration advocates and others who want meaningful reform -- on a national Community Call to talk about his bill and steps toward making it a reality.
Highlights of the Proposal:
Path to Citizenship:
The bill will offer citizenship to those who are already here if they register for legal status, pass a background check, learn English, pay a fine, and show their commitment to America by paying taxes and becoming part of the fabric of American life as they work their way toward citizenship over time. That pathway would take 13 years.
While the pathway to citizenship may be longer than many would like, undocumented immigrants who meet all eligibility requirements and earn Registered Provisional Immigrant status, or RPI status, will be able to legally work in the U.S., travel outside the U.S. for short periods of time, and contribute fully to American society.
To earn RPI status, eligible individuals must be physically present in the U.S. before December 31, 2011 and at the time of filing, and must submit an application shortly after the bill's enactment.
The initial period of authorized admission for an RPI is six years, and the status is renewable in six-year terms.
After 10 years of lawful presence in the U.S., RPIs may apply for a green card.
Undocumented individuals will only receive a green card after every individual who is already waiting in line to receive a green card has been processed, but the bill includes measures to quickly clear the current backlog.
For DREAMers, the pathway to citizenship is shorter, requiring five years in RPI status. This is the strongest DREAM Act proposal to be considered by the Senate in recent history. There is no age cap on DREAMers who came to the U.S. as children.
Agricultural workers will also have a separate, expedited legalization program.
Immigrants who demonstrate lawful presence in the U.S. for 10 years will be eligible for naturalization after 3 years of permanent residency, not 5 as it is currently.
The bill's legalization proposal is contingent on increased border security, the metrics of which are objective and achievable.
Funding will be available to assist with securing the border, and will be rolled out in stages.
In stage one, the Department of Homeland Security will have six months to develop a Comprehensive Border Security Strategy and Southern Border Fencing Strategy that must be submitted to Congress. The bill appropriates $3 billion for the border plan, and another $1.5 billion for an additional fencing plan.
After five years, if the specified goals have not been met, a Commission will be established to make further recommendations for achieving the targets. The Commission will recommend up to $2 billion in additional spending to achieve any unmet border security goals.
The bill invests resources to assist the border patrol with their governmental function of securing our borders--it will provide the latest technology, infrastructure, and personnel needed to prevent, detect, and apprehend unauthorized entrants.
At the same time, it strengthens prohibitions against racial profiling and inappropriate use of force, includes increased oversight mechanisms to hold the border patrol accountable, enhances the training of border patrol agents, and allows border communities to meaningfully share their input.
The bill prioritizes family unity and allows the immediate reunification of green card holders with their spouse and minor child. Going forward, people waiting for green cards in the family system can come to the U.S. to work and be with their families while they wait.
The bill also quickly clears out the family backlog. This is a huge win for our communities. Right now, the wait times in some family categories are up to 23 years -- not a reasonable time to wait in line.
Additionally, to help keep families together, the bill grants immigration judges expanded discretion to terminate deportation orders and other immigration proceedings to prevent hardship to the immigrant's parent, spouse, or child.
It also expands inadmissibility waivers, allowing people who are currently excluded from the legal immigration process to still qualify for legalization.