Lawmakers are working on a new version of the immigration reform bill that will allow nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants to apply for earned legalization, according to a recent New York Timesreport.
The new version currently being drafted will likely revise the 3-tiered earned legalization proposal and remove the requirement for some undocumented immigrants to return home before they can be eligible to adjust status.
The New YorkTimes reports that the Senate plans to introduce its immigration bill in January, “with an eye toward passage in March or April.” The House, the Times said, “will consider its version later.” President Bush expressed last week his hope of signing an immigration bill in 2007.
The proponents of the new version include Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and 2008 presidential contender John McCain (R-AZ), as well as Representatives Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). The proponents have already met, according to the New YorkTimes, and their staffs are already working on the bill.
Last spring, the Senate passed an immigration reform proposal, S. 2611, which contained a guest worker program and a 3-tiered earned legalization system that would legalize the presence of some million undocumented immigrants in the country.
While S. 2611 was a relatively generous proposal if viewed alongside the draconian, and decidedly anti-immigrant provisions of H.R. 4437, there were reservations about the feasibility of its 3-tiered earned legalization system. Homeland security officers were concerned that the 3-tiered system would have driven more undocumented immigrants into the shadows, and unwittingly create an incentive for would-be applicants to submit false documents to establish eligibility.
S. 2611 proposed eligibility for adjustment of status based on the length of residence in the US. Assuming they passed strict background checks, undocumented immigrants living here for 5 years or more could apply for adjustment of status without having to leave the US. Those living in the US for 2 to 5 years would apply for adjustment from their country of origin, while newcomers were not eligible for adjustment of status and were required to leave the US.
The proponents are cautiously optimistic about the new version passing muster in the Democrat-controlled 110th Congress. The New YorkTimes quoted Sen. Kennedy that he is hopeful about the new immigration reform proposal, “both in terms of the substance and the politics of it.” Sen. Kennedy will be the incoming chair of the Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship subcommittee.
While likewise optimistic about immigration reform, Rep. Flake for his part warned that some conservatives may not be too receptive about broadening the scope of the new earned legalization proposal and described the new version as “politically more difficult,” the New YorkTimes reported. House Democrats are inclined to proceed with caution on immigration reform because they want to maintain the political gains of the November elections.
Ultimately, the failure of the 109th Congress to pass an immigration reform bill may be considered a blessing in disguise. The outpouring of support for undocumented immigrants and the clamor to fix the broken immigration system was evident not just during the mass actions that took the country by storm last spring, but also when the American people cast their votes during the last mid-term elections. Hispanic votes for Republicans dropped from 44 percent in 2004 to 29 percent last November.
With the new immigration reform bill being drafted, and no less than President Bush himself expressing eagerness to pass an immigration reform law that will most likely be the legacy of his administration to America, immigrants can certainly look forward to the coming year with hope and promise.
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 http://www.seguritan.com/