Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today praised the committee's passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744), a comprehensive bill to reform the U.S. immigration system. The legislation cleared the Judiciary Committee 13-5 and will now be considered by the full Senate.
The bill advanced by the committee today includes several amendments added by Senator Feinstein (list below), as well as an agreement negotiated by Feinstein to provide legal status and a pathway to citizenship for current undocumented farm workers inside the country.
"After many months of intense negotiation and deliberation, the Senate Judiciary Committee took a major step forward to reform our broken immigration system. This is a major achievement by a bipartisan group of senators working together to bring about the comprehensive reform we've needed for too many years. Both sides made concessions and compromises in order to put forward a bill that meets two principal goals: a pathway to citizenship and increased border security.
"The bill establishes a new Blue Card program for legal status and a pathway to citizenship for current undocumented farm workers and creates two new agricultural visa programs to ensure farmers can legally hire future workers when local workers are unavailable. The bill also addresses a problem faced by many high-tech companies that struggle to fill jobs in science and technology, while protecting American workers from displacement and wage suppression.
"Our country was built by immigrants. California has more immigrants than any other state in the union. We've talked about reform for years. It is time to bring people out of the shadows and allow them to participate in the American dream. I look forward to swift consideration and passage of this bill by the full Senate."
Senator Feinstein's amendments to the bill follow:
Makes changes to the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) to allow localities to claim reimbursements for pre-conviction incarceration.
Creates three new permanent district judgeships for California's Eastern District and converts one temporary judgeship to permanent status in California's Central District.
Stipulates that U.S. Customs and Border Protection may only use unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) within 3 miles of the California-Mexico border while leaving intact the ability to use drones over larger rural areas of the Southwest borders of Texas and Arizona.
Makes available 5,000 immigrant visas to qualified displaced Tibetan refugees during a three-year period.
Ensures that rigorous security checks on refugees and asylum seekers conducted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are done against databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Defense Department, State Department and the National Counterterrorism Center.
Makes grant funds available for immigration-related criminal prosecution costs--including pre-trial services, public defenders and clerical support--borne by state, local and tribal governments.
Authorizes the creation of the Safe and Secure Border Infrastructure Program to provide funding to state and local governments to improve land port facilities.
Requires live training of Customs and Border Protection agents to screen children attempting to enter the country, using the expertise of child welfare professionals.
Mandates humane conditions of confinement for children in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, including medical and mental health care, nutrition and personal hygiene.
Requires that allocations to law enforcement for emergency preparedness (Operation Stonegarden) be awarded through a competitive grant process.
Allows grants to nonprofit organizations to be used to assist agricultural workers in obtaining a Blue Card.
Preserves the ability of consular officers to deny a nonimmigrant visa to an applicant on national security grounds.