Immigration reform drive is taking two steps back as Republican legislators consider the enforcement-first plan peddled by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) and Representative Mike Pence (IN).
As the plan’s name suggests, “Securing the Border and Reforming Immigration without Amnesty,” (“Pence Plan,” for brevity) the proponents put enforcement measures first and foremost in the agenda to fix our immigration system.
It will be recalled that the Senate and House of Representatives are currently stalled at the sensitive issue of earned legalization. Although the Senate legalization proposal was welcomed by a relatively broad sector of the public as workable, outspoken conservative members of the House insist that it is an amnesty plan that essentially rewards violators of immigration laws.
Apparently, as a concession to the glaring fact that many industries are in need of essential foreign workers, the Pence Plan proposes a guest worker program but only after (not even simultaneously with) tough borders protection measures. It is supposedly a plan that conservatives “can embrace” because it does not include “amnesty.”
Sealing the Border
The Pence Plan proposes using additional Border Patrol and Drug Enforcement personnel and technology in monitoring the borders to prevent illegal immigration and ward off terrorists. More importantly, the plan seeks to seal off the border by putting up “fences and vehicular barriers; checkpoints; (and) detention facilities.”
The border protection measures will be put up in the northern and southern borders of the US and the US shoreline.
The Pence Plan proposes the addition of 12,000 Border Patrol agents (i.e., 2,400 agents yearly for the next 5 years); 2,500 port of entry inspectors (i.e., 500 yearly for the next 5 years); and 1,000 immigrations and customs enforcement personnel (200 yearly for the next 5 years).
It adds 20,000 more spaces for detention of illegal immigrants, which is intended to end the “catch and release” policy; construction of border fences; night vision equipment; additional aerial vehicles, sensors, GPS-activated communications system; weapons and uniforms for personnel; and improved fingerprinting technology to be used on all those who enter the US, among others.
According to the proponents themselves, the bill “adopts the strongest provisions of the House and Senate-passed bills.”
Further, an employer verification system and the so-called Good Neighbor SAFE visa program will be implemented and thoroughly tested for reliability.
Guest Worker Program
There is no guest worker program for the first two years following the enactment of the Pence Plan. This period will be devoted entirely to sealing the borders and setting up the system for the guest worker program.
If all the criteria of the Pence Plan are attained within the 2 year-period, the President would send a certification to Congress to set off the implementation of the guest worker program.
The Pence Plan proposes a new guest worker program called a “Good Neighbor SAFE (Secure Authorized Foreign Employee) Visa” program, which will be run by American-owned private employment agencies.
The system is designed to encourage the 12 million undocumented immigrants to leave the US and apply for a temporary visa from so-called “Ellis Island Centers,” which are actually branch offices of the private employment agencies in Canada, Mexico and Central American countries.
The Ellis Island Centers will have a database of jobs which were offered to US workers but have not been filled. These jobs will be matched with visa applicants who will be issued a Good Neighbor SAFE visa only after passing thorough background checks and health screening. The spouse and the children may accompany the visa holder in the US.
The visa is good for an initial period of 2 years, and may be renewed provided the visa holder passed another round of background checks.
Limitations of the Good Neighbor SAFE Visa
The Good Neighbor SAFE Visa holder will be given an ID card that contains personal and biometric information. The ID card will facilitate monitoring the visa holder through a national employment verification system.
The visa holder will not be entitled to social services. S/he may receive only the lump sum employee portion of the Social Security contribution after leaving the visa program, while the employer portion remains in the Social Security system. Medicare contributions will be used to answer for unpaid medical care of the visa holder.
The total maximum period for the Good Neighbor SAFE visa is 12 years, after which s/he must leave the US or apply for another visa category.
At the end of the 12-year period as SAFE visa holder, the foreign worker may qualify for a 5-year X-Change Visa that will allow him/her to work in the US under the same terms as the SAFE visa. After five years, the foreign worker may either continue in X-Change status, return home or apply for a green card.
Editor’s Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For further information, you may call him at 212 695 5281 or log on to his website at www.seguritan.com