After years of prognostication, we finally have the bi-partisan Senate draft for an Immigration Reform bill… as proposed by the Gang of 8. Interesting that it’s called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013… likely at the insistence of Republican members. (Update: This Bill was PASSED by the Senate on June 27th)
But hey, whatever works. This bill actually seems a credible way to tackle the problem. And as long as it does that, I doubt Democrats will care what the name is. So here are the basics of how it would work…
1) Getting documents for the Undocumented. Under the proposal, undocumented persons will be able to receive an immediate, but limited legal status called RPI– Registered Provisional Immigrant Status– once they pass a criminal background check, submit proof that they were in the United States prior to December 31st 2011, and pay a $500 fine. RPI status can even be extended to persons that have been deported previously if they can demonstrate a relationship need to someone still in the country… mother or caretaker for a young child that is a citizen or DREAMer for example. This is a huge deal, because RPI status ends the threat of deportation for people that have otherwise obeyed US laws, and allows some people to come back and be reunited with their families. Persons in RPI status also have the ability to enter and exit the United States as though they were a citizen.
2) Border stuff . In order to make the bill more “attractive” to Republican lawmakers, the bill has some creative new language saying that the border must be “90 percent secure” by the Department of Homeland Security. If for some reason DHS cannot secure the border to 90 percent (how that measurement is determined is still beyond unclear), then an independent board has to offer stricter measures to reach that goal. Once someone is documented as an RPI, they will not be allowed to enter citizenship procedures until the border is deemed “secure”. This is the part of the bill that is kind of weird and a bit worrisome, but hopefully lawmakers can re-visit this once the main legislation is passed.
3) A real path to citizenship. Finally… this bill offers some credible pathways for people currently undocumented to obtain full United States citizenship. It may not be easy or fast for most, but at least it will be there. Assuming the border situation is settled, RPIs would then be able to obtain a Green Card AFTER 10 years of RPI status in the US. And herein lies the other complex issue. Citizenship decisions will be mostly Merit-based… that’s how they will determine who is granted citizenship, and when.
One more thing to note… anyone that has already been classified as a DREAMer will have a fast track through these processes. They only have to wait for 3 years to obtain a Green Card, and as soon as they have it, they can apply for US citizenship.
So the bill won’t be perfect, but it’s an important step in fixing one of our nation’s most dire needs. And it allows millions of families to stop living in fear. Check out the full text of the proposal, or this outline from scribd…