Though a Tuesday press conference to unveil the new Senate immigration reform bill was canceled out of respect to victims of the Boston terror attack, the sweeping measure was made public.
Among its many proposals is a winding 13-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents who arrived in the U.S. before December 31, 2011. Qualified undocumented would have to pay a $500 fine, pay applicable back taxes, have a clear criminal record (no felony; maximum of three misdemeanors) and maintain a job in order to obtain “registered provisional” status for six years.
That status would be renewable provided the holder has maintained a job and didn’t commit a criminal offense; another $500 fine would also be required. After 10 years qualified provisionals would be able to apply for a green card, and three years later, U.S. citizenship.
The pathway to permanent resident status, and eventually citizenship, would hinge on a series of border security and employer enforcement provisions that would have to be confirmed in order for undocumented to proceed to full legalization.
The bill also seeks to change the current legal immigration system, which is heavily weighted towards those with family ties, to one where employment skills receive equal measure. Potential immigrants would be able to obtain green cards based on a new points system that takes into account their education and employment skills, as well as family ties in the U.S.
The bill also would increase the number of high-skilled temporary H-1B visas from the current total of 65,000 per year to at least 110,000 and possibly more depending on demand. Also, a new W visa program, with an initial allocation of 20,000 visas starting in 2015, would be available for low-skilled guest workers.
The bill was authored by a bi-partisan group of eight senators, including Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican from Florida who will take the lead on obtaining support from fellow conservatives.
Senate hearings on the bill are scheduled for the end of the week