The last attempt at comprehensive immigration reform, in 2013

The last attempt at comprehensive immigration reform took place in 2013, led by the Senate but ignored by the House. Below are portions of the American Immigration Council’s review of the Senate bill, written before failure in the House:

Senate Bill 744 (S.744) was introduced in the Senate on April 16, 2013, by Senator Schumer of New York and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. 92 amendments were incorporated into the bill by voice vote. On May 21st, S. 744 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 13-5. One major amendment was passed by the Senate. S. 744 as amended passed the Senate on June 27, 2013 by a vote of 68-32. The House never considered the bill.

The bill addressed all aspects of the immigration process from border and enforcement issues to legal immigration reforms. It makes changes to the family and employment-based visa categories for immigrants, provides critical due-process protections, increases the availability of nonimmigrant workers to supplement all sectors of the workforce, and provides legal status to 11 million undocumented immigrants within the United States. The Senators intended this legislation to address these issues “…by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here.”

….although undocumented immigrants will be allowed to register for the new Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) program almost immediately, before those in RPI status can apply to become lawful permanent residents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must certify that the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy is deployed and operational, 700 miles of fencing is complete, 38,405 border patrol agents are deployed, and the E-Verify employment verification system is in place, among other requirements.

One of the primary purposes of the bill is to provide a path to Lawful Permanent Residence (a “green card”) for the existing undocumented population via the new Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) program. Before Registered Provisional Immigrants can apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status, several security goals, or “triggers,” must be met. For example, the Department of Homeland Security had to certify that a Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy is deployed and operational, 700 miles of fencing is complete, 38,405 border patrol agents were deployed, and the E-Verify employment verification system was in place, among other requirements.

Undocumented residents would gain Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status if they had been in the U.S. since December 31, 2011 and met other criteria. This provision covered DREAM act and a proposed law for farm workers. With some exceptions, Registered Provisional Immigrants will be able to apply for Lawful Permanent Residence (a “green card”), but they must go to the “back of the line” and have been in RPI status for at least 10 years. RPIs must earn their green cards through employment, learning English, paying taxes, and other contributions to the country.

A merit-based point system would allow foreign nationals to obtain Lawful Permanent Residence in the United States by accumulating points mainly based on their skills, employment history, and educational credentials. At the same time, the current immigrant visa categories for siblings and adult married children of U.S. citizens, as well as the diversity visa program, are eliminated and replaced by this system. Between 120,000 and 250,000 visas would be allocated each year based on the point system. The visa cap would fluctuate using a formula that takes into account the number of visas requested the previous year and the unemployment rate. . Certain highly skilled and exceptionally talented immigrants are also exempted from the worldwide cap, such as those who have extraordinary ability or advanced degrees in STEM fields from U.S. universities.

Compared to reform proposals from 2006 and 2007, S. 744 contains stronger devices designed to facilitate immigrants’ language acquisition, civic engagement, financial self-sufficiency, and upward economic mobility.

According to the CBO’s final score, enacting S. 744 would lead to a net savings of about $135 billion over the 2014-2023 period. This figure results from subtracting the costs of implementing the legislation ($23 billion) from the expected reduction in the federal budget deficit ($158 billion).

The net fiscal gains ($1 trillion over the 20-year period analyzed) would result from the fact that federal revenues would exceed spending. The boost in revenues is mostly attributable to the expansion of the size of the labor force and secondarily to the legalization of current undocumented workers. These changes would lead to additional collection of income and payroll taxes

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