Senate to Delay Unveiling of Immigration Overhaul Bill

April 15, 2013 11:29 PM
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Delay due to Boston tragedy | Obama to be briefed today on measure

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Bipartisan immigration overhaul legislation may not be released until at least Wednesday out of respect for the tragic events that took place during the Boston Marathon on Monday. “We may delay it until Wednesday because of this Boston tragedy,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of eight senators in the bipartisan group working to draft the bill, which they had hoped to unveil today.

Congressional briefings. McCain, Flake and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) briefed Republican senators on the bill Monday night. Senate Democratic members of the group are expected to brief their colleagues Wednesday.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and McCain will brief President Barack Obama today on the overhaul bill. Both senators penned an editorial (link) in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal in an effort to win support for their proposal. “The legislation’s approach is balanced: It is firm in cracking down on illegal immigration but sensible when it comes to legal immigration,” they said in the item.

Hearings ahead. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has scheduled two hearings on the bill, one for Friday and one for next Monday.

A markup of the measure is expected to take place next month.

Summary of the Legislation

  • Homeland Security secretary must submit within 180 days a $4.5 billion plan for surveillance systems, fences, drones and other means to gain "effective control'' of high-risk southern border areas—meaning at least 90 percent of people attempting to enter illegally are apprehended or turned back.

  • At that point, illegal immigrants could register for provisional legal status, allowing those who have lived in the US since Dec. 31, 2011, to work for any employer and travel outside the US, but not be eligible for federal benefit programs. They would be required to pay a $500 penalty, assessed taxes and a processing fee. People would be disqualified if convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors, among other grounds.

  • Permanent residency status couldn't be granted until the Homeland Security secretary and other officials declare the border goals to have been met. However, the bill also says people can apply for permanent status after 10 years.

  • All employers would be required to use the federal E-Verify system to detect illegal workers, after a five-year phase-in period, and a system must be in place to track people with visas as they leave the country.

  • Some agricultural workers and some people brought to the US as children could get green cards in five years. The bill would create a visa for foreigners starting new companies in the US. It would increase the number of H-1B visas for highly skilled workers but requires employers who rely heavily on those visas to pay higher fees.

  • The bill would create a new "W" visa for low-skilled workers. A new agency would set the annual cap for W visas based on employment conditions and labor shortages.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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