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Schumer / Graham plan for immigration reform

Two weeks ago, Senators Schumer and Graham wrote an Op-Ed article in the Washington Post in which they propose a solution for immigration reform. I have copied the entire article below, and below that is a Los Angeles Times article on the Schumer / Graham plan.

Here is the money pitch: “Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.”

The article in full:

The right way to mend immigration

By Charles E. Schumer and Lindsey O. Graham
Friday, March 19, 2010

Our immigration system is badly broken. Although our borders have become far more secure in recent years, too many people seeking illegal entry get through. We have no way to track whether the millions who enter the United States on valid visas each year leave when they are supposed to. And employers are burdened by a complicated system for verifying workers' immigration status.

Last week we met with President Obama to discuss our draft framework for action on immigration. We expressed our belief that America's security and economic well-being depend on enacting sensible immigration policies.

The answer is simple: Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration. Throughout our history, immigrants have contributed to making this country more vibrant and economically dynamic. Once it is clear that in 20 years our nation will not again confront the specter of another 11 million people coming here illegally, Americans will embrace more welcoming immigration policies.

Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.

Besides border security, ending illegal immigration will also require an effective employment verification system that holds employers accountable for hiring illegal workers. A tamper-proof ID system would dramatically decrease illegal immigration, experts have said, and would reduce the government revenue lost when employers and workers here illegally fail to pay taxes.

We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card. Each card's unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone's information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices. The card would be a high-tech version of the Social Security card that citizens already have.

Prospective employers would be responsible for swiping the cards through a machine to confirm a person's identity and immigration status. Employers who refused to swipe the card or who otherwise knowingly hired unauthorized workers would face stiff fines and, for repeat offenses, prison sentences.

We propose a zero-tolerance policy for gang members, smugglers, terrorists and those who commit other felonies after coming here illegally. We would bolster recent efforts to secure our borders by increasing the Border Patrol's staffing and funding for infrastructure and technology. More personnel would be deployed to the border immediately to fill gaps in apprehension capabilities.

Other steps include expanding domestic enforcement to better apprehend and deport those who commit crimes and completing an entry-exit system that tracks people who enter the United States on legal visas and reports those who overstay their visas to law enforcement databases.

Ending illegal immigration, however, cannot be the sole objective of reform. Developing a rational legal immigration system is essential to ensuring America's future economic prosperity.

Ensuring economic prosperity requires attracting the world's best and brightest. Our legislation would award green cards to immigrants who receive a PhD or master's degree in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. university. It makes no sense to educate the world's future inventors and entrepreneurs and then force them to leave when they are able to contribute to our economy.

Our blueprint also creates a rational system for admitting lower-skilled workers. Our current system prohibits lower-skilled immigrants from coming here to earn money and then returning home. Our framework would facilitate this desired circular migration by allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can show they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position; allowing more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs and fewer in a recession; and permitting workers who have succeeded in the workplace, and contributed to their communities over many years, the chance to earn a green card.

For the 11 million immigrants already in this country illegally, we would provide a tough but fair path forward. They would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society by performing community service and paying fines and back taxes. These people would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.

The American people deserve more than empty rhetoric and impractical calls for mass deportation. We urge the public and our colleagues to join our bipartisan efforts in enacting these reforms.

Charles E. Schumer is a Democratic senator from New York. Lindsey O. Graham is a Republican senator from South Carolin


The LA Times article in full:

Senators announce framework for bipartisan immigration bill
Charles Schumer, a Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican, propose increasing resources for border enforcement and legalizing millions of illegal immigrants. President Obama praises the proposal.
By Anna Gorman
The Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2010

Days before a planned march in Washington, D.C., two U.S. senators announced their framework Thursday for a bipartisan immigration bill that would increase resources for border enforcement, create a biometric Social Security card to prevent forgeries and legalize millions of undocumented immigrants.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) laid out their proposal in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, saying that 'the American people deserve more than empty rhetoric and impractical calls for mass deportation.' The plan also calls for creation of a program to admit temporary workers.

The announcement was immediately praised by President Obama, who pledged Thursday to help translate the framework into a legislative proposal and to continue working 'to forge a bipartisan consensus this year.'

The senators' plan 'thoughtfully addresses the need to shore up our borders,' Obama said in a statement, 'and demands accountability from both workers who are here illegally and employers who game the system.'

As many as 50,000 faith, labor and immigrant rights advocates are expected at a rally in the nation's capitol Sunday to pressure the White House and legislators to take action on immigration reform. In a conference call Thursday, they called upon the senators to introduce a bill in coming weeks and begin deliberations in April. They warned that politicians could see the consequences in the midterm elections if progress isn't made.

'Immigration reform cannot wait another year, another term,' said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. 'The time is now and they are marching in D.C. to make that clear.'

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said Thursday that Schumer and Graham understand that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

'The framework is an important step forward,' Noorani said. 'The likelihood of immigration reform is very, very strong given this strong start.'

Previous efforts to pass immigration reform legislation failed in 2007. Now, with the economic downturn and millions of Americans out of work, opponents said it was even less likely that the public would support the legalization of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

'Allowing millions of illegal immigrants to stay and take jobs away from citizens is like giving a burglar a key to the house,' Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement.

Mark Krikorian, from the Center for Immigration Studies, who favors stricter controls on immigration, said he believed that there was 'zero chance' of legislation being signed by the president. 'This is just a way of pretending to show there is progress when there is nothing whatsoever new in what they have written,' he said.

The framework covers familiar territory: border security, interior enforcement, temporary workers and legalization. The legalization plan would require undocumented immigrants to admit they broke the law, perform community service, pay fines and back taxes and learn English. According to the plan, a bill would also give green cards to immigrants who earn a master's or doctorate in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. university.

The unveiling of the plan follows a gathering last week of the president, both senators and advocates of reform. Since taking office, Obama and the administration have been reaching out to legislators and advocates to garner support for reforming the immigration system. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has held dozens of meetings with Senate and House members and has held round table sessions with state and local politicians and labor, business and faith groups throughout the nation, including in Seattle, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Tamar Jacoby, who runs ImmigrationWorks USA, a federation of employers pushing for reform, said she was encouraged by the framework and that it included a plan for more workers to come legally when they were needed. Jacoby said that publishing a framework now shows the public and stakeholders there's momentum for the process.

'Part of passing any bill is about garnering public support,' she said. 'Voters will be paying attention to the issue this weekend.'

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