June 28, 2013

Breakdown of Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Breakdown of Immigration Legislation – S. 744

Border Security
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary must develop a “Comprehensive Security Strategy” and “Southern Border Fencing Strategy” (700 miles of fencing) within six months.

Additionally, Senator Manchin cosponsored the Border Security and Enforcement amendment introduced by Senators Hoeven and Corker. This amendment states that each of the 5 requirements below must be satisfied before any undocumented immigrant is granted a green card.

o 700 miles of fencing must be constructed along the Southern Border.
o 20,000 additional Border Patrol agents must be stationed along the Southern Border.
o E-Verify must be fully implemented for all employers to ensure undocumented workers are not employed.
o An electronic entry/exit system must be fully implemented at all international airports and sea ports.
o The Department of Homeland Security Secretary must submit a Border Security plan to Congress that identifies the minimum requirements to secure the border, which include towers, ground sensors, thermal imaging, unmanned aircraft systems, and Blackhawk helicopters.

Additional Security Measures
E-Verify: All employers must have e-verify systems within 5 years (currently 91% of employers use E-Verify). Fraud-proof documents will be required for ID verification but a national ID card will be legally prohibited.
o Photo matching- Employers must certify the photo presented in person matches the photo in the E-Verify system.

Interior Enforcement: Tightens restrictions on inadmissibility for multiple convictions, gang-related activities, driving while intoxicated, child abuse, and similar crimes. Creates a mandatory exit verification system.

Pathway to Citizenship and Legal Immigration

Registered Provisional Immigration Program
Only immigrants who entered the U.S. before December 31, 2011, and have been physically present since that time will be eligible to apply for “Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI)” status.
All RPIs must:
1. pass a background check;
2. not be convicted of a serious crime;
3. Learn English and civics;
4. pay any assessed taxes; and
5. pay a $500 fine.
o Initial registration lasts for only six years, and renewals are subject to an additional background check, payment of taxes, and another $500 fee.
o After 10 years, RPIs can apply to be permanent residents. They must pay an additional $1000 fee ($2,000 total by then), pass another background check, prove they can speak English, pay taxes, and fulfill an employment requirement.
o After 3 more years, these permanent residents can apply for U.S. citizenship.

DREAM Act’s Expedited Plan: After 5 years, DREAM RPIs may apply for permanent status and naturalization. Individuals may apply for DREAM RPI status if they:
1. entered the U.S. before they were 16 years of age;
2. have completed high school or have a GED; and
1. have acquired a degree from an institution of higher education,
2. have completed 2 years toward a bachelor’s degree or higher, or
3. have served in the military for 4 years.

Agricultural Program
o Undocumented farm workers with proof of working 100 days, in the past two years, are eligible for the Agricultural Card (Blue Card).
o Those who work 100 days a year for 5 years or 150 days a year for 3 years can apply for permanent residence if they have paid all taxes, have not been convicted of a serious crime and pay a $400 fine.

Visa Reform
H-1B (High-Skilled Labor): 110,000 visas will be made available, but it can increase to 230,000; however, Senator Manchin is working with his colleagues on an amendment to ensure employers recruit American workers first.

New Worker “W” (low-skilled labor): 20,000 visas for lower-skilled workers will initially be available, and it will only increase to 75,000 in four years.

New Merit Based System: 120,000 visas available. Half of these visas are for high-skilled workers and the other half are for low-skilled workers. This will replace the current “green card” lottery system.

Senator Manchin’s Amendment passed by a 72-26 Vote
Contractor Salaries: This amendment passed the Senate by a 72-26 vote and is similar to an Amendment offered by Senator Manchin during last year’s Defense Bill. Essentially, it sets a cap on private contractor salaries with respect to border security. The salary cap would be at the same level currently paid to Presidential cabinet secretaries. If a company wishes to pay more than that rate, it can only pay through private funds; taxpayers are only responsible for payments up to the cap.