Issue Position: Immigration

Issue Position

By:  Lisa Murkowski
Location: Unknown

On June 28, the Senate rejected a cloture motion on the immigration bill, which would have allowed the bill to move forward to a vote on final passage. I voted against invoking cloture on the immigration reform bill. Over the course of the last few days, amendments I felt were needed to improve this legislation did not advance. As an outcome of this debate, it also became clear that important pending amendments would also not advance. I remain convinced that our immigration policies need to be reformed, as the current system is not working. I also recognize that Congress and the Administration must do more to ensure that the border security and enforcement measures currently in law are funded, implemented, and executed. Only when we have shown that we will hold up our end of the bargain in providing for a secure border will the American people trust us to enact reforms to other areas of our immigration laws.

The proposed comprehensive immigration reform legislation is broken down into seven titles. As an overview, the legislation seeks to secure our borders through additional personnel and infrastructure; implement a mandatory employment verification system to ensure only those who are authorized to work in the United States are able to gain employment; redesign the immigrant visa system toward a merit-based system; and differentiate between those illegal aliens who are making a positive contribution to this country as opposed to those who are a strain on our society and our resources.

It is important to note that before the temporary guest worker and the Z visa provisions go into effect, the border security and employment verification system must be funded, in place, and operational.

Title I: Border Enforcement

No temporary guest worker program or alteration of the status of current illegal aliens will take place before the following are in place to secure our borders:

• 18,000 border patrol agents
• 200 miles of vehicle barriers and 370 miles of fencing
• 70 ground-based radar and camera towers on the southern border
• 4 unmanned aerial vehicles
• A permanent end to the policy of "catch-and-release"
• U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has the resources to detain at least 27,500 aliens per day

Title II: Interior Enforcement

Title two would increase the number of attorneys and judges to help manage immigration cases to help ensure that those here illegally are deported.

This title would pay to train local and state officials to not only detain illegal aliens, but also transfer illegal aliens from state or local custody to federal custody. The title creates harsher penalties for illegal entry into the United States such as increased fines and jail time. Illegal aliens that use forged or counterfeit documents would face prison time. These illegal aliens would be deported and permanently barred from entry into the U.S. The bill also increases the penalties for avoiding a checkpoint. Finally, the bill makes it against the law to sell any firearm to a non immigrant or illegal alien.

Title III: Worksite Enforcement

In order to ensure those who are employed are authorized to work in the U.S., title III of this bill addresses the issue of employment verification. We need to create deterrents on the pull side of immigration.

This law requires employers to verify that a person is allowed to work in the US through a new Internet based program called the Electronic Employment Verification System (EEVS). The EEVS will be phased in over the next three years:

• Within 6 months, new employees and current employees are required to participate in EEVS (if ordered by the Secretary of Homeland Security)
• No later than 18 months, all new employees and current employees subject to reverification are required to participate
• Within 3 years, all employers and employees not previously required to register in EEVS, must participate, including existing employees.

EEVS will only be used for the purpose of enforcement and administration of immigration laws, anti-terrorism laws, or federal criminal law. Fines will be issued for employers whom fail to register employees with EEVS. The EEVS program must also be in place and operational before new visa categories are implemented.

Currently, a person may present one of several documents to a potential employer to prove that they are allowed to work in the United States. This bill takes away that confusion by shortening the list of valid documents. New Social Security cards that are harder to fake will be issued to all Americans. The new Social Security cards shall be issued within two years after the passage of the bill. It also raises the fines for employers who break the law and hire illegal aliens.

Title IV: Temporary Guest Worker Program

Title IV creates a guest worker program to help meet the shortage of labor in some sectors of American businesses where American workers are unwilling to work, while ensuring that temporary workers are here only temporarily.

The guest worker visas will be broken into two categories of workers, temporary and seasonal

Temporary worker visas would allow a person to come to the U.S. to work for two years. After the two years, the nonimmigrant worker must leave the country for a year before applying for another temporary work visa. A temporary foreign worker would only be able to receive three work visas in their lifetime, totaling 6 years.

The second category of temporary guest workers, seasonal workers, would allow foreign workers to work for up to a ten month period in the U.S. After the ten month period of employment, the nonimmigrant work is required to leave the U.S. for 2 months before applying for another seasonal work visa. Temporary workers would be required to pay income tax, and a state impact fee. Also, temporary workers are not eligible to receive benefits from welfare, Food stamps, Social Security, or other programs and privileges enjoyed by U.S. citizens and LPRs. Any temporary guest worker who overstays their visa will be permanently barred from any future visa and will be deported.

Title V: Immigration benefits and Green Card Quotas

The new system, which is based on points, would fundamentally change which immigrants are able to get Green Cards.

The allotted spots for family-based immigration would be decreased. Family-based visas for brothers and sisters of LPRs and U.S. citizens would be eliminated, as well as the diversity visa lottery. Only parents, minor children or the spouse of a U.S. citizen, or the spouse and minor children of an LPR would be eligible for family-sponsored visas under the new revisions.

For employment-based immigration, visas would be distributed on a merit-based point system taking into account factors such as English proficiency, level of education, and employment. Those who seek to immigrate to the U.S. through a work visa would need to accumulate points in these areas in order to qualify for permanent residency in the U.S.

Title VI: Undocumented Aliens

The presence of an estimated 12 million undocumented illegal aliens in the US is a cause for concern and action.

Under the proposed legislation, illegal aliens, who can demonstrate they were in the U.S. before January 1, 2007 and are employed, may be eligible to receive a probationary nonimmigrant Z visa. To be eligible to apply for a Z visa, an alien must be currently employed and pay a fine of $3,000, which includes a State impact fee of $500. In addition, an applicant must submit an application, fingerprints and clear a security check.

Any illegal alien who has been convicted of the following will not be eligible to apply for a Z visa, and will be deported:
• A felony
• Three of more misdemeanors
• A serious criminal offense
• Violation of a law relating to a controlled substance

The Z visa will allow an alien to reside and work in the U.S. for four years. At the end of four years, the nonimmigrant must renew their visa. At the time of renewal, the nonimmigrant must have knowledge of U.S. civics and must have an understanding of the English language. In addition the Z visa holder must continue to be employed. For a second renewal, the alien must pass the U.S. naturalization test. If a Z visa nonimmigrant fails the test, he or she will be deported and their Z visa will be taken away. It is important to note that passing the test does not make the Z visa holder a U.S. citizen.

A Z visa holder may apply to be a permanent resident nine years after the enactment of this bill. However, they must get in the back of the immigration application line. Their status cannot be adjusted until 30 days after the last application in the current line as of May 2005 is processed. If the Z visa holder wishes to apply for permanent status they must leave the U.S. and apply for legal status from outside the country. To apply a fine of $4,000 must be paid and change in their status will be based on a merit-based point system identical to the merit-based system for employment-based visas.

Title VII: Miscellaneous items

Title VII states that English is the common language of the U.S. Also, the legislation provides grants to help immigrants to assimilate into American society. This title mandates the Secretary of Homeland Security must incorporate a knowledge and understanding of the meaning of the Oath of Allegiance into the history and government test for applicants of citizenship.

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