New Immigration Bill in Senate

May 29, 2007

A new immigration reform bill was introduced into the Senate on May 21 that includes provisions to give legal status to many of the 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States today. The bill also implements a new points system under which immigrants may enter the United States.

English-speaking, employed immigrants who were here illegally before January 2007 could pay a $5,000 fine and receive a Z visa, a four-year visa that is renewable. After current green card applications have been processed, Z visa holders would be able to apply for permanent residence if they pay another $4,000 and return to their home countries to apply from there.

As for entry options for future immigrants, family-based immigration would be limited to parents, spouses and minor children of citizens. Parents of citizens would be capped at 40,000. The points system would rate immigrants based on their skills, education, and family connections to the United States; immigrants with more points would be given greater preference. This system would remove the need for an employer as a sponsor.

A new temporary worker visa system would also be adopted (the Y visa) that would allow 200,000 workers to enter the United States each year. The visa would be valid for two years, after which the workers would have to return home for one year before becoming eligible for a renewal.

To prevent immigrants from entering illegally or overstaying their visas, the bill also calls for increased border security and stricter penalties. It would make it impossible for new illegal immigrants to ever obtain immigration benefits.

Opponents of the bill argue that even though it offers ways to grant legal status to the 12 million illegal immigrants here today, its restrictions leave no room for accommodating the inevitable inflow of illegal immigrants in the future. As Allan Wernick, Director of the CUNY Citizenship and Immigration Project, highlighted in his speech at Baruch College on May 22, "denying immigrants the possibility of ever getting legal status is no guarantee that undocumented workers will stop coming and staying in the United States."

This bill is not yet finalized, however. There will not be a final version until after it has gone to the House of Representatives and between now and then there will be several amendments to it. Immigrants should be cautious of people who claim that they can help them adjust their status. Please call one of our centers if you have questions or for a free consultation.

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