By Lucia Bragg
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) unveiled the president’s immigration reform bill on Thursday.
The bill features an eight-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1. It would apply to an estimated 11 million people, allowing them to live and work in the U.S. for five years following background checks and tax payments.
Eligible applicants could seek a green card at that point that would provide them permanent status and the ability to apply for citizenship three years later. The bill provides an expedited three-year path for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status designation (TPS) holders, and some farmworkers. The bill would also:
- Reform family-based immigration by:
- Clearing backlogs.
- Classifying spouses and children of green card holders as immediate family members.
- Increasing country specific caps on family immigration.
- Providing protections for orphans, widows and children.
- Eliminate per-country caps.
- Improve access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries.
- Provide work authorization for children of H-1B holders.
- Create a pilot program to incentivize higher wages for non-immigrant high-skilled visas.
- Increases funding to state and local governments and non-governmental organizations for immigrant integration, including English language assistance, naturalization resources and immigrant inclusion efforts.
- Establish a commission with the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor and stakeholder groups focused on improving the employer verification process and allowing U visa relief access to workers facing serious labor violations.
- Eliminate the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims.
- Reduce asylum application backlogs and increase protections for U visa, T visa, and Violence Against Women Act applicants.
- Raises the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000.
- Increase and improve the use of technology at the border to strengthen border security.
- Create a four-year plan to increase assistance to Central American countries to stem the flow of migration.
- Strengthen prosecution for individuals involved in smuggling, narcotics and trafficking networks.
- Makes capacity and technological reforms to immigration courts.
The bill may face difficulty getting through the Senate, with its current 50-50 Democrat-Republican split. The full package may ultimately move forward in separate, smaller bills, or via the budget reconciliation process.
Separate bills have already been introduced that would legalize "Dreamers," farm workers, and certain immigrants with TSP. Bills that passed the House last session can be taken up on the House floor immediately, bypassing committee hearings and markups.
Lucia Bragg is a senior policy specialist in NCSL's State-Federal Relations Program.