Charles E. Schumer, Senior US Senator for the state of New York, is perhaps best known as leader of the “Gang of Eight” – a bipartisan group of US senators including Schumer (D), Bob Menendez (D), Michael Bennet (D), Richard Durbin (D), Jeff Flake (R), Lindsey Graham (R), John McCain (R), and Marco Rubio (R) – who, in 2013, introduced the now famous Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (also known as the “gang of eight bill”).
In an insightful interview published last week by The Center for Migration Studies, Sen. Schumer says there is a “rainbow at the end of the storm” with regard to seeing the gang of 8 immigration bill become law, stating “I think that, in 2017, both democrats and republicans come together and pass immigration reform.”
However, because this is not a political blog, let’s focus on what this news for immigration reform means for the law, if it came to pass. How does comprehensive reform affect both Americans and undocumented immigrants?
Path to Citizenship
Most of the 11 million people who are in the country illegally could apply for a green card after 10 years and citizenship three years after that.
Applicants must pay a $1,000 fine, pay back taxes, learn English, remain employed and pass a criminal background check.
Immigrants must have arrived in the United States before Jan. 1, 2012, to be eligible.
Dream Act youth can obtain green cards in five years and citizenship immediately thereafter.
The path to green cards and citizenship is predicated on a “trigger” related to border control measures that must first be implemented.
The Department of Homeland Security will receive $3 billion to improve border security through surveillance drones and 3,500 additional customs agents; $1.5 billion for fencing.
Within five years, DHS must achieve 100 percent surveillance of the southwest border with Mexico and apprehend 90 percent of people trying to cross illegally in high-risk sectors (areas where more than 30,000 people are apprehended annually).
If DHS does not meet the metrics, a border commission composed of governors and attorneys general from border states would be given five more years and additional funding to implement more stringent measures.
U.S. companies must implement the “E-verify” computer tracking system that aims to ensure that workers are legal residents within five years. All non-citizens will be required to show “biometric work authorization card” or “biometric green card.”
The government must implement an exit/entry tracking system at ports of entry to determine whether foreign visitors or workers overstay their visas.
H-1B high-skilled visas
Visas for highly skilled engineers and computer programs would double from 65,000 to 110,000.
In future years, the cap could rise to as much as 180,000.
Require employers with large numbers of H-1B visas to pay higher salaries and fees.
Guest worker “W-visa” program
New visa program for 20,000 foreigners in low-skilled jobs starting in 2015. Number of visas increases to 75,000 in 2019.
New federal bureau to analyze employment data to make recommendations for annual guest-worker visas caps beginning in 2020, to exceed no more than 200,000 annually.
Construction companies limited to no more than 15,000 visas per year.
“Safety-valve” to allow additional visas over the annual cap provided employers pay workers higher wages.
Farm worker H-2A program
Visas for agriculture workers limited to 337,000 over three years
Wages based on survey of labor-market data for various farming jobs.
Changes to family visa program
Allows unlimited number of visas per year for foreign spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents.
Eighteen months after the law takes effect, eliminates visas reserved for foreign brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and married children over 30 years of age.
Eliminates diversity visa program starting in 2015. Creates new merit-based visa category using point system based on family ties and work skills.
Check out Sen. Schumer’s full interview below and subscribe to CMSOnAir for more immigration laws news and think tank conversations “devoted to the study of international migration, to the promotion of understanding between immigrants and receiving communities, and to public policies that safeguard the dignity and rights of migrants, refugees and newcomers.”