A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Understand and get ready for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (2)

The White House has released a fact sheet for its version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  The following is a summary of the plan:
The White House and the President recognize that reforming our broken immigration system requires responsibility from the 11 million people living in the shadows and from the employers who hire illegal workers.  The new plan must also guarantee that everyone is playing by the same rules.  The four key principles the President Obama’s plan include:

Continuing to Strengthen Border Security
Though the number of Border Patrol agents has been doubled since 2004, the President’s new proposal will further strengthen and improve infrastructure at ports of entry, and continues supporting use of technologies to secure land and maritime borders. It will create new criminal penalties to combat transnational criminal organizations in drugs, weapons and money trafficking, and human smuggling across the borders. It also includes tough criminal penalties for trafficking in passports and immigration documents and schemes to defraud. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will establish border community liaisons along the Southern and Northern borders to improve communication and collaboration with border communities.

Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers
Our businesses should only employ people legally authorized to work in the United States. The President’s proposal is to stop the practice of knowingly employing undocumented workers and hold those companies accountable. The proposal provides tools for employers to ensure a legal workforce by using federal government databases to verify the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. Penalties for hiring undocumented workers are significantly increased. The proposal also mandates a fraudresistant, tamperresistant Social Security card to prove authorization to work in the United States. The proposal will also protect workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights by creating a “labor law enforcement fund” to ensure that industries comply with labor laws.

Earned Citizenship
Since it is not practical to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders, the President’s proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship. This proposal requires undocumented immigrants must come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass criminal background and national security checks, and pay fees and penalties before they will be eligible for a provisional legal status. Individuals must wait until the existing legal immigration backlogs are cleared before getting in line to apply for lawful permanent residency (i.e. a “green card”), and ultimately United States citizenship. Consistent with current law, people with provisional legal status will not be eligible for welfare or other federal benefits. As under current law, five years after receiving a green card, individuals will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship like every other legal permanent resident. An individual whose provisional lawful status has been revoked or denied, or whose application for adjustment has been denied, will have the opportunity to seek administrative and judicial review of those decisions.

Streamlining Legal Immigration
The proposal seeks to eliminate existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers. It also raises existing annual country caps from 7 percent to 15 percent for the family-sponsored immigration system.  The proposal also eliminates the backlog for employment-sponsored immigration by eliminating annual country caps and adding additional visas to the system.  (These changes, if implemented, will significantly speed up the waiting time of immigrant petitions for countries such as China, India, Philippines and Mexico.)  The proposal encourages foreign graduate students educated in the United States to stay here and contribute to our economy by making it easier for advanced degree holders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from qualified U.S. universities to obtain a green card.  Similarly, the proposal will also provide visas to foreign entrepreneurs who plan on starting businesses here and hiring U.S. workers.  

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