A bill proposing a bipartisan immigration reform was released today by sponsor Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.) and his colleagues, a group of eight senators also known as the “Gang of Eight”. The 844-page bill has been in the works for months and if passed, will be the first major reform on immigration laws since 1986.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) a crucial member of the “Gang of Eight” due to his role in pitching the bill to conservative members of the Republican Party, believes that the bill presents a “tough but humane” approach in dealing with undocumented immigrants illegally living in the country or on the path to a U.S. citizenship.
“While I believe this legislation is a strong conservative effort that will accomplish all these things and tries to make the best of the imperfect reality we face, it’s not perfect,” Rubio said in a statement today, which was reported by USA Today. “But I am also confident that an open and transparent process that welcomes public input is going to make it even better.”
However, Rubio might have a hard time convincing his fellow colleagues in the Republican Party, especially being that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) blasted the proposed immigration bill today.
“This proposal would economically devastate low-income American citizens and current legal immigrants. It will pull down their wages and reduce their job prospects,” Sessions said. “This bill opens up citizenship to recent arrivals and, remarkably, millions who overstayed their visas. If adopted, this bill would send the following message to the world: if you get a U.S. visa and it expires, never leave—just stay put and evade detection. It even opens up citizenship to those who have been deported from the country.”
If the reform bill is passed, it will allow over 11 million undocumented immigrants, that have been in the country for a number of years to apply for legal status, especially if they entered the country before the year 2011. An immigration overhaul would provide opportunities for undocumented immigrants by allowing visas for those that specialize in math, science, engineering, or technology.
While the bill has some positive aspects, it may also provide obstacles for some undocumented immigrants. The bill proposes to deter future border breaches by tightening security at the U.S. borders, making it harder for undocumented immigrants to illegally enter the country. The bill also uses interior enforcement by implementing precautionary measures such as requiring that all businesses in the country use a special program, E-Verify, to screen the immigration status of new employees for the past 5 years. This will help prevent businesses from hiring undocumented immigrants. Homeland Security would also be allowed to track the entrance and exit of all immigrants into the U.S.
If the proposed immigration reform takes place, undocumented immigrants who start the legal process to gain documentation within the U.S. will have to wait ten years to obtain a green card, then another three years to obtain a citizenship on top of having to pay $2,000 in fines, back taxes, and fees. Due to the financial burden from the fees, this process can prove difficult for some immigrants.
The bill is set to be presented before the Senate Judiciary committee for review tomorrow and Friday.
Krysta Loera is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.