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|Long title||A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes.|
|Nickname(s)||The "immigration bill"|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2013)|
|Long title||A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes.|
|Nickname(s)||The "immigration bill"|
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744) is an immigration reform bill introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) in the United States Senate  and co-sponsored by the other seven members of the "Gang of Eight" a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators who wrote and negotiated the bill. It was introduced into the United States Senate of the 113th United States Congress on April 16, 2013.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the bill in April 2013. The bill was voted out of Committee on May 21, 2013 and was introduced in Senate. On June 27, 2013, the Senate passed this bill 68-32. Whether the United States House of Representatives will even consider it is uncertain.
The bill would make it possible for many undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and eventually citizenship. It would also make the border more secure by adding up to 40,000 border patrol agents. It also advances talent-based immigration through a points-based immigration system. New visas have been proposed in this legislation, including a visa for entrepreneurs and a W visa. It also proposes new restrictions on H1B visa program to prevent its abuse and additional visas/green-cards for students with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees from U.S. institutions. The bill also includes a $1.5 billion youth jobs program and repeals the Diversity Visa Lottery in favor of prospective legal immigrants who are already in the United States.
Some politicians have commented that if this immigration reform does not pass the Congress, and the Senate and the House try to pass their own separate versions with no compromise, it could result in a stalemate with the problem of a broken legal immigration system remaining.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates this reform bill would reduce the US fiscal deficit by US$197 billion over the next ten years and by $700 billion by 2033. Its report also states that, if this bill becomes law, US wages would be 0.5 percent higher in 2033 than under current law. The Social Security Administration says that this bill, if it becomes law, would help add $276 billion in revenue over the next 10 years while costing only $33 billion.
The legislation would make serious and broad changes to existing U.S. immigration law. S.744 would create a program to help the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States gain legal status in conjunction with efforts to secure the border. It would also make changes to the existing system of legal immigration, attempting to make the system more responsive to economic needs. Other provisions would include the more extensive use of E-Verify by businesses in order to ensure that their workers have the legal right to work in the United States. This system has been criticized by some privacy advocates and groups concerned about the false positives generated by the system that prevent U.S. citizens from working. Additionally, on June 24, 2013, the Senate passed an amendment by 68-32 to this bill which would enhance border security by adding high-tech surveillance equipment and doubling the number of border agents to about 40,000 The bill has also passed the Senate by 68-32.
Conservative Republicans in the US House of Representatives are opposed to this bill. House Republicans and Speaker Boehner have said that this bill will not be introduced on the House floor, a tactic which has been called anti-democratic by some as it prohibits US House members from conducting a debate and a poll on this bill due to a so-called Hastert Rule. If US House Speaker does not allow the bill to be introduced in the House, it still has a chance to be introduced on the House floor through a discharge petition. A discharge petition signed by 218 members (or more) from any party is the only way to force consideration of a bill that does not have the support of the Speaker. However, discharge petitions are rarely successful. Some have commented that this bill may be considered amnesty. This bill proposes earned legalization for undocumented immigrants (they have to wait for 13 years, pay all back taxes, learn English, no legalization for people with criminal records, and citizenship or permanent residence only after the border becomes fully secure).
House Speaker Boehner has said that the House Republicans favor a piece-meal approach, i.e., several different bills instead of one comprehensive reform bill. Instead of putting the existing Senate bill up for vote and making necessary modifications, he says that the House plans to draft another bill of its own without any path to citizenship and without some other changes (such as introducing a visa for entrepreneurs and delimiting the use of H1B visas to prevent their abuse) that the Senate bill offers. Senator Chuck Schumer has commented that the strategy of passing smaller-scale bills would not work and that Democrats would not support an enforcement bill without the promise of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush called on the GOP-led House to pass a comprehensive immigration bill and asked his party to quit being "the obstacle" on the divisive issue.
Current situation is that of a deadlock between House and Senate. If no compromise is reached between the House and the Senate, this immigration reform effort could potentially fail once again like the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, with the problem of a broken and antiquated US immigration system remaining.
Most of the debate is focused on illegal immigrants but there is only a small part of the bill that deals with this issue (path to legalization). The rest of the bill focuses on:
The bill would provide undocumented immigrants in the U.S. a pathway to citizenship for those who have resided in the U.S. before December 31, 2011. Undocumented immigrants would initially need to apply for a newly created Registered Provisional Immigrant status; in order to so immigrants would have to pay a fine and fees, any back taxes owed, pass a background check and not have a disqualifying criminal record. The bill also benefits children of undocumented immigrants & agricultural workers with the inclusion of the DREAM Act & AgJOBS Act. Immigrants who receive the Registered Provisional Immigrant status will be able to apply for legal permanent resident status (Green Card) as long as strict Border Security provisions are met, including: increasing the number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and officers; construction of a double layer fence along certain parts of the Mexico–United States border;and meeting a target of stopping 90% of illegal immigration border crossings. The bill would also drastically alter the methods of visa allocation under current family-based and employment-based categories, as well as introduce a new concept of a "merit-based" visa, which awards visas based on points accrued based on educational achievements, employment history, and other contributions to society.
(Need to highlight: border security and enforcement, + pathway to citizenship/Registered Provisional Immigrants, + changes to legal immigration) 
In many pieces of legislation, the bill opens with a section called "Congressional Findings", which are not details of the law, but rather information about the situation or general background that Congress wishes to provide to explain why the rest of the bill is necessary. In this case, Congress makes four statements of principles or aspirations explaining the need for immigration reform.
Congress makes the following findings:
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act was created by a group of eight United States Senators - composed of four Republicans and four Democrats - nicknamed the "Gang of Eight:" Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY). S. 744 was introduced into the Senate by Senator Schumer on April 16, 2013, with the other seven members of the Gang of Eight serving as co-sponsors.
The bill was referred to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which held hearings and markups about the bill. The Judiciary Committee held hearings about the bill on April 19, April 22, and April 23, 2013. On May 9, May 14, May 16, and May 20, 2013, the committee held consideration and mark up sessions. On May 21, the committee ordered the bill to be reported, with amendments, favorably.
Several other committees also held hearings about the bill. The United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held hearings on May 7. The United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held hearings about the bill on May 16 and May 22.
On June 7, 2013, Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, filed report 113-40 to accompany S. 744. The report included the views of the majority of the committee in favor of the bill, as well as minority views and opinions. The 187-page report includes information about why the new immigration legislation is needed, the history of the bill's consideration by the committee, as section by section summary of the bill, a copy of the Congressional Budget Office's report on the bill, some conclusions, and the minority views on the bill.
On June 11, 2013, the Senate voted in Roll Call Vote 147 84-15 to proceed with debate about the bill on the Senate floor. All 52 Democrats, both Independents, and 30 Republicans voted in favor of this. The Senate considered the bill on the floor on June 12–13, June 17–21, June 24–26, 2013. During this time, it was recommitted to the Senate Judiciary committee twice to make amendments.
Title I, which begins on page 33, covers changes being made to border security in the United States. Some of the goals mentioned below are also addressed in the preceding sector, Section 1 of S. 744.
One of the major provisions of S. 744 is a focus on increased border security, primarily dealt with in Title I. The bill establishes a goal of achieving a 90% success rate (Section 3(a)(3)) of intercepting and deporting undocumented immigrants who attempt to cross the border in on of the "High Risk Border Sectors" - places where more than 30,000 people cross per year (Section 3(a)(5)). In order to accomplish this, the bill would increase the number of CBP officers by 3,500 people by 2017, authorize the National Guard to participate in missions related to border security, fund additional surveillance and surveillance technology, and provide funding to build a border fence.
After the enactment of the bill (should it be enacted), the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has 180 days to write and submit two reports. First, the "Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy", which is a strategy meant to explain their plans for achieving and maintaining effective control in all high risk border sectors along the Southern border (established in Section 5(a)). The "Southern Border" refers to the international border between the United States and Mexico. The report will be submitted to several committees in Congress for review. Section 5(a)(2) explains the elements that should be included in the report, namely criteria for measuring success, capabilities that need to be obtained for the success of the strategy (equipment, personnel, etc.), and the infrastructure and technology required.pg 19-20 Congress grants the Department of Homeland Security $3,000,000,000 in order to pursue this strategy (Section 6(a)(3)(A)(i)).
The second report that the DHS is required to write and submit in 180 days is the "Southern Border Fencing Strategy" to identify where fencing, including double-layer fencing, infrastructure, and technology should be deployed along the Southern border (Section 5(b)). Congress grants the Department of Homeland Security $1,500,000,000 in order to pursue this strategy (Section 6(a)(3)(A)(iii)).
The bill would focus on three particular high risk sectors - the Tucson sector in Arizona and the Rio Grande and Laredo sectors in Texas. Title I focuses on preventing additional illegal immigration into the United States.
Title I includes a number of provisions which are explained more explicitly in the bill's text. This is a short list of some of them:
The bill contains many border security measures, some of which must be implemented before illegal immigrants can adjust from the provisional status to full green card status. However, the DHS Secretary simply must submit a plan for border security within the first six months of the bill in order to initiate the provisional legal status for illegal immigrants. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) explained that whether or not the border is secure will have no impact on the advancement of the legalization of illegal immigrants, saying, "We're not using border security as an excuse or a block to the path to citizenship. [The Gang of Eight] wants to make sure the border is secure, but not to use it as a barrier to prevent the 11 million from eventually gaining a path to citizenship" The bill provides resources for additional CBP officers, improvements in the border security infrastructure, and increasing the number of immigration prosecutions. It also provides resources for and requires additional training for CBP officers.
The bill sets a goal of achieving a 90% success rate (Section 3(a)(3)) of intercepting and deporting undocumented immigrants who attempt to cross the border in on of the "High Risk Border Sectors" - places where more than 30,000 people cross per year (Section 3(a)(5)). In order to accomplish this, the bill would increase the number of border security personnel by 3,500 people by 2017, authorize the National Guard to participate in missions related to border security, fund additional surveillance and surveillance technology, and provide funding to build a border fence. If the bill is enacted, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has 180 days to write and submit two reports. First, the "Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy", which is a strategy meant to explain their plans for achieving and maintaining effective control in all high risk border sectors along the international border between the United States and Mexico. Congress grants the Department of Homeland Security $3,000,000,000 in order to pursue this strategy (Section 6(a)(3)(A)(i)). The second report that the DHS is required to write and submit in 180 days is the "Southern Border Fencing Strategy" to identify where fencing, including double-layer fencing, infrastructure, and technology should be deployed along the Southern border (Section 5(b)). Congress grants the Department of Homeland Security $1,500,000,000 in order to pursue this strategy (Section 6(a)(3)(A)(iii)).
Subtitle A--Registration and Adjustment of Registered Provisional Immigrants
The focus of Subtitle A is changing the status of illegal immigrants already present in the United States. The section creates the category of "registered provisional immigrant" (RPI) and outlines the steps necessary to obtain this status, as well as what qualities or characteristics of an illegal immigrant will prohibit them from obtaining it. Immigrants must apply to have their status changed. In order to be eligible, they must have started residing in the United States prior to December 31, 2011 and have been physically present since then. They must then pay a $500 penalty fee, are assessed taxes, and must pay application fees to cover the cost of their application.
Illegal immigrants are ineligible to change their status if they:
Section 2103, the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2013) focuses on adjusting the immigration status of illegal immigrants who entered the United States as minor children. The Department of Homeland Security can change the immigration status of immigrants who arrived in the United States before turning 16, have been registered provisional immigrants for at least five years, and has earned an education in the United States (by graduating high school, getting a GED, attending 2 or more years of college education at a bachelor's degree level or higher) or spend four or more years in the Uniformed Services (with an honorable discharge). DREAM Act kids can get their green cards in five years and will be eligible for citizenship immediately after that.
Section 2104 - Additional requirements creates rules about how the data immigrants submit as part of their application can be used, limiting it to immigration related purposes. It also establishes some procedures for reviewing immigration status decisions and challenging them in court. Section 2105 - Criminal penalty describes the penalties (a fine of up to $10,000) to anyone who deliberately misuses immigration data by using it, publishing it, or permitting it to be examined.
Title II of S. 744 focuses on three things: (1) creating the registered provisional immigrant (RPI) status, which illegal immigrants in the United States are eligible to apply for, (2) creating an Agricultural Workers Program, and (3) changing the existing rules governing the legal immigration process. This includes changing the requirements for family-based immigration, economic-based immigration, and merit-based immigration.
The bill creates a new immigration status, entitled Registered Provisional Immigrant status. Undocumented immigrants who get adjusted under the bill would not be legal permanent residents yet, but they would be in a legal status and would no longer be considered to be present illegally. They would also be permitted to work lawfully. In order to receive this status, undocumented immigrants would need to apply (which would have the effect of registering them with the U.S. government, hence the title of the status), pay both a fine and a fee, pay any owed back taxes to the IRS, learn English, and not have any disqualifying criminal history. Initially the status would be good for 6 years, with the possibility of having it extended for an additional 4 years. After a total of 10 years, then registered provisional immigrant would then have the opportunity to apply for legal permanent resident status, so long as the other triggers in the bill had taken place.
The triggers in the bill that would need to occur before registered provision immigrants could proceed to legal permanent resident status and ultimately to citizenship are related to 1) border security: there are several in this area but the key one requires that 90% of those attempting to cross the southwest border illegally be stopped; and 2) visa backlog reduction: other areas of the bill create changes in the visa allocation system intended to eliminate the visa backlog, and this must happen before adjustments from registered provision immigrant to legal permanent resident. This is the "back of the line" provision; the idea is that undocumented immigrants who gain status from this bill should not be able to become legal permanent residents sooner than someone who had legally filed a visa petition earlier and had been waiting for the approved visa to become available.
Subtitle B--Agricultural Worker Program
Chapter 1--Program for Earned Status Adjustment of Agricultural Workers
Chapter 2--Nonimmigrant Agricultural Visa Program Chapter 3--Other Provisions
Another key part of the bill is the agricultural worker program. The program consists of two subprograms, a so-called "Blue Card" status and a nonimmigrant agricultural visa program, or guest worker program.
The Blue Card program is a temporary legal status (similar to the Registered Provisional Immigrant status) that will be available to undocumented immigrants who can demonstrate that they have been in the United States performing qualifying agricultural work for a certain amount of time. Workers who obtain this status will have the opportunity later to adjust to legal permanent resident status if they meet certain conditions.
Subtitle C--Future Immigration This section begins on page 256.
Subtitle C focuses on reforming current legal immigration law. This includes provisions about family members of U.S. citizens immigrating into the country, merit-based systems of immigration, and immigration related to work visas.
The bill makes many changes to current immigration system designed to control future flows of immigration. These include repeal of the diversity visa program, changes in several family-based visa classifications (e.g. elimination of sibling petitions for U.S. citizens and conversion of a petition by a legal permanent resident for a spouse or child to an immediate relative petition rather than a preference petition), and the ability to adjust future levels of worker visas (both those created by this bill and under current programs) based on economic conditions.
The bill also creates "merit-based" visas, which immigrants will eventually be able to apply for on the basis of a point system which awards points for various criteria, including educational achievement, involvement in society, entrepreneurship, and other factors.
The combined effects of the changes are intended to be greater control over future amounts of immigration and also the type of immigrant; the changes also reduce the share of family-based visa overall in favor of a greater number of employment-based and merit-based visas.
Changes to family-based immigration:
Changes to employment-based immigration:
Merit-based visa system:
Title III of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act contains the following subtitles:
The bill contains provisions for enhancing interior enforcement of immigration laws, including requiring the implementation of E-Verify for verification of the status of employees and increased protections of U.S. workers.
Title IV of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act contains the following subtitles:
This program will be the new agricultural guest worker program, and will replace the current H-2A program which will be repealed by the bill. This program increases the number of workers available, and makes several key changes, such as allowing "permanent" guest workers (in the sense that the nonimmigrant agricultural visa would be portable from employer to employer as seasons change, rather than requiring a new visa for each season as the current H-2A program does) rather than only seasonal workers as the current H-2A program does. The bill also increases worker protections and raises minimum wages for agricultural workers.
Farm owners and farm workers have generally joined together in support of these provisions of the bill.
The bill makes numerous reforms to nonimmigrant visa programs, including the H-1B, L, student visa, visitor visa, and H-2B programs. The reforms are designed to in some cases make the programs easier to use, and also to enhance the systems used to monitor compliance by nonimmigrant visa holders with the visa requirements.
The annual cap on H-1B visas is increased substantially (from 85,000 to 205,000), but additional recruiting requirements are added that require positions first be posted on a government website for 30 days and offered first to qualified U.S. workers. The Department of Labor is given greater authority to review and challenge hiring decisions. Technology firms are lobbying against these provisions of the bill, arguing that it creates unwarranted governmental intrusion into internal hiring decisions and hampers the companies' ability to attract the most qualified employees from abroad. Senator Hatch of Utah has introduced an amendment that would remove these requirements.
E-Verify is an "Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States." The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act would require all employers to use the E-Verify system, phasing employers in based on company size over five years. The E-Verify system would also be enhanced by various changes specified in the law. One of those changes is the development of a photo matching system. All people (U.S. citizens included) will be required to show their employers a photo ID, such as a driver's license, passport, or (in the case of legal immigrants) their "biometric work authorization card" or "biometric green card." Their potential employer is required to look up the potential employee in the E-Verify database and compare the two pictures. Provisions are also made so that employees can "lock" their Social Security numbers in order to prevent other people from illegally using their same number somewhere else. The United States Customs and Immigration Services will have access to this system in order to track Social Security numbers with suspicious usage and attempt to catch the perpetrators.
Title IV, Subtitle H of the bill creates the INVEST visa (Investing in New Venture, Entrepreneurial Startups, and Technologies) for immigrant entrepreneurs. This new visa program would allow immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the United States, start businesses, and create jobs in America. There would be two types of INVEST visas. A nonimmigrant INVEST visa would be renewable provided certain initial investment, annual revenue, and job creation criteria are met within an initial three-year period. The immigrant version of the INVEST visa would have basically the same criteria just at higher thresholds.
The E-Verify system, which employers would all be required to use if this bill becomes law, is a controversial provision of the bill. The changes made would require that all employees receive a positive "yes" from the government that they are permitted to work in the United States. This provision has been severely criticized by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union for changing the nature of the relationship between people and the government by creating a society based on receiving permission. In announcing their white paper on the subject, the ACLU wrote " In an attempt to stop the tiny percentage of those starting jobs in the United States each year who are unauthorized workers, E-Verify would force everyone to obtain affirmative permission from government bureaucracies before engaging in the core life functions of working and earning a living." Concerns about E-Verify have also included the potential for abuses and hacking of the databases used by the program, issues related to errors that wrongly keep roughly 400,000 people a year from being hired, and objections to the program as bringing the United States closer to having a national ID card.
In his testimony to the Senate Judiciary, Dr. Ron Hira observed the bill is targeted at reducing cost to corporations by outsourcing USA citizen jobs to lower-cost foreign workers, rather than bringing the best and brightest into the USA. He states “S.744 expands the base cap substantially from 65,000 to 110,000. But it only increases the advanced degree cap from 20,000 to 25,000. This is one of the most baffling features of the legislation. Industry has repeatedly put the straw man forward that the cap is too low so foreign graduates of American universities are being forced out of the country. If there is any increase in the cap, and I don't think it is warranted, it should be allocated towards advanced degree graduates of U.S. universities.”
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