CHN: Bipartisan Immigration Reform Bill Introduced In House
On March 22, Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced the STRIVE Act (Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy) of 2007, a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill. It is the first immigration reform bill to be introduced in either chamber in this Congress. The key elements of the bill include: a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., a new worker visa program to manage future flows, a reduction in immigration backlogs, and increased border security and worksite enforcement provisions. So far 38 Representatives have signed on to the bill.
The new worker visa program and legalization component included in the bill are contingent on certain requirements. Applicants for the worker visa program must: demonstrate job qualifications and provide evidence of a job offer from a U.S. employer, complete criminal background checks, pay a $500 application fee, undergo a medical exam and show admissibility to the U.S. The visa will be valid for three years and could be renewed for another three years. Workers in this program will be able to apply for citizenship for themselves and their family members after working for 5 years and paying an application fee.
Undocumented immigrants who have resided in the U.S. prior to June 1, 2006 will be eligible for a 6-year visa, and after six years will be able to apply for citizenship, granted they meet certain requirements. The requirements for the 6-year visa include proof of employment in the U.S. before June 1, 2006 and since that date, a criminal background check, and payment of a $500 fine plus necessary application fees. If after six years these individuals want to apply for citizenship they would have to meet a whole new set of criteria including paying additional fines and meeting English and civic requirements. For more details on the bill please read the overview and summary at http://www.immigrationforum.org/.
Advocates welcomed the introduction of the STRIVE Act (H.R. 1645) as a first step in jumpstarting the immigration debate. They admit that it is not a perfect bill, and look forward to opportunities for making improvements.
Both House and Senate are planning immigration legislation this year, although prospects for enactment remain uncertain. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has said House leaders are committed to pass a comprehensive bill before August. In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that he will set aside the weeks of May 14 and 21 for floor debate.