Short Overview of 2013 Senate Immigration Bill

NCSL Initial Overview | “The Border Security Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act” | S.744

Photo of the U.S. Capitol NEW:  NCSL's Info Alert - Bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform Passes in the Senate
(June 27, 2013)

NCSL's Section-by-Section Overview of S.744 (April 26, 2013)  
(37-page overview)

On April 17, 2013, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.”  S.744 is the bipartisan legislative proposal for comprehensive immigration reform negotiated by the so-called Senate Gang of Eight,  which is made up of the following senators: Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.),  Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). 

State impact assistance grants to offset the costs of integration, including education/English acquisition and health/public health costs, were not included in the legislation. To read the bill, please click here. To access NCSL’s Immigration Policy, click here.

Below are the highlights of what is included in the 844 page bill:

  • Establishes the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund with an initial federal outlay of $6.5 billion to be used for border security. The fund will be sustained through various visa fees and penalties. This funding is designated as emergency funding, will not violate spending caps and is available for 10 years.

  • Launches a comprehensive border security program that includes 3,500 additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers. Funding will be available for state and local law enforcement through the operation Stonegarden Program and for interoperable communication for federal, state and local law enforcement so all levels of government can communicate with each other. There is a two-year individual grant program for people to purchase satellite phones if they live or work in the Southwest border region and can show they are at an increased risk of violence because of a lack of cell service. Additionally, there is reimbursement to state and local governments for costs associated with prosecution and pretrial detention of federally initiated criminal cases declined by local U.S. Attorney’s offices.

  • Reauthorizes the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) through 2015. Its current funding level is $240 million.

  • Ensures that the enforcement of civil immigration law is a responsibility of the federal government by providing enhanced training for federal border security and immigration officers. Federal agents will receive specialized training in identifying and detecting fraudulent documents, the scope of enforcement authorities (including stops, searches and seizures), immigration laws, and civil and constitutional rights.

  • Establishes a Border Oversight Task Force to make recommendations and review immigration and border enforcement policies and strategies. State and local government have five seats on the commission (two from the northern border region and three from the southern border region).

  • Mandates E-Verify for all employers, with a five year phase-in of mandatory E-Verify, beginning with federal contractors. There is a specific prohibition of a national ID card and requires identity verification through enhanced fraud-proof documents. States can voluntarily participate to submit state driver’s license photos to the federal E-Verify system. The legislation includes a $250 million grant to reimburse states that voluntarily participate.

  • Creates a new guest worker type visa, the “W” visa, for jobs requiring less than a bachelor’s degree and reforms  the high-skilled visa system.

  • Restructures and replaces current H-2A visa systems with an Agriculture Worker Program and creates a process for unauthorized agricultural workers in the United States to gain legal status through a new “blue card” temporary residency program.

  • Creates a path to legal status and citizenship by the creation of a Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status. RPI status would be available to individuals who meet eligibility criteria after paying a fee and penalty and submitting a completed application. Eligibility requirements include, but are not limited to, demonstrated continuous physical presence in the United States on or before Dec. 31, 2011, not being convicted of any serious crime, and not having a federal tax liability (pay back federal taxes). Initial registration would be valid for six years then RPIs must apply for renewal, which requires a background check, additional fees and a fine along with proof of employment and proof that they will not become a public charge. After 10 years, RPIs can apply for an adjustment in status, like Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), and, after three additional years, apply for naturalization. Fees and fines will need to be paid as well as demonstrated proof of employment, English language acquisition, and passing a background check, among other requirements.

  • Allows individuals who were brought to the United States as children before they were 16 and completed high school or a GED to be eligible for RPI status (DREAMers). Individuals who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are grandfathered into RPI status. DREAM RPIs are exempt from penalties and triggers. DREAM RPIs are eligible to adjust to Legal Permanent Resident or naturalize after five years of RPI status. Children under age 16 are not included and have a separate set of criteria for a path to citizenship.

  • Addresses the visa backlog by creating a new merit-based visa program that will award points to individuals based on several factors, including employment, education, and length of United States residence. No one with RPI status will be allowed to apply for citizenship until the visa backlog is ended.

  • Includes an improved Conrad 30 program that allows doctors to receive a waiver of the requirement to return to their home country in exchange for three years of service in a medically underserved area in the United States (30 per state per year).

  • Incorporates a pilot program to promote immigrant integration at state and local levels. This pilot program would award competitive grants to state and local government for integration activities. These grants would not be available to all states, with weight given to high immigrant population states.

  • Includes some child welfare provisions included in the bill that address issues pertaining to citizen children in deportation situations and termination of parental rights.

  • Denies RPIs for federal means-tested benefits (Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, TANF, SSI) for at least 10 years of RPI status (DREAMers for at least five years of RPI status). This does not include the five-year waiting period that most qualified immigrants (LPRs, except refugees and asylees/humanitarian immigrants) must wait before becoming eligible.  Most RPIs will be ineligible for federal means-tested benefits for at least 13-15 years.

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