Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) have introduced their plan for comprehensive immigration reform, which would strengthen current border enforcement efforts and create a temporary worker program for migrants applying from outside the country.
Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) previously introduced an immigration reform measure in May, under the name "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act."
The Cornyn-Kyl proposal, as it was introduced in the Senate on July 19, 2005, includes the following:
Immigration Enforcement: The bill primarily increases resources for immigration law enforcement. In particular, it would add 10,000 Border Patrol agents, 1,250 new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working at ports of entry, 10,000 agents for worksite enforcement, 1,000 investigators for immigration-related crimes, and $5 billion in new technology over five years to monitor the border.
It would also add more detention beds for immigrants awaiting review of their final order of removal.
The bill calls for Social Security cards to be machine-readable and tamper-resistant and would set minimum security standards for state-issued birth certificates.
Within a year of the bill's enactment, all employers would be required to participate in an electronic employment eligibility verification system to establish the legal status of all new hires.
Mandatory Departure: All immigrants residing in the U.S. without documentation would be required to apply for mandatory departure within five years, which would enable them to exit the country and then reenter through legal channels. Participants who quickly join the mandatory departure program would be excused from bars to reentry normally levied on those who overstay their visas.
As part of the exit procedure, immigrants would be registered, fingerprinted, and issued biometrically enhanced identity documentation. Those who do not leave within the first year would be fined based on the number of years in the U.S. before their departure.
The bill would also eliminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which provides 50,000 permanent resident visas to randomly chosen people from countries which are "underrepresented" in the U.S. immigration system.
Temporary Worker Program: The bill would create a new W visa category to allow temporary workers to take jobs not filled by U.S. workers. This visa would be available for migrants applying from outside the U.S., and for migrants who have joined the mandatory departure program. The temporary work visas would authorize employment for two years, after which the immigrant would be required to return home for one year before qualifying for an additional two-year work period. Workers could participate in the program up to three times. Family members would not be allowed to migrate with the immigrant worker, but could visit for up to 30 days each year.
International Cooperation: Countries wishing for their citizens to participate in the temporary worker program would be required to enter into a bilateral agreement with the United States and cooperate on efforts to control illegal migration and reduce gang violence, smuggling, and human trafficking. They would also be required to provide access to databases on criminal aliens and terrorists, and immediately accept the return of nationals removed from the U.S..
Based on the senators' detailed summary, the cost of the bill's implementation would exceed $12 billion.
Unlike the Kennedy-McCain proposal (see the May 2004 Policy Beat for details) this bill would require undocumented immigrants to return to their countries of origin before qualifying for the temporary work program. It also would require immigrants to return for one year between authorized work periods. The Kennedy-McCain bill allows for up to six consecutive years of authorized work.
The Cornyn-Kyl bill also differs because it does not open any new channels for temporary workers to earn permanent legal residence. In addition, family members of temporary workers, eligible to come legally to the U.S. under the Kennedy-McCain bill, would only be allowed to visit the U.S. for 30 days a year.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) said on July 20 that Congress will have to pass an immigration and border security bill before it can consider any guest-worker program. DeLay's office is reportedly working with the Senate and the White House to coordinate the various bills that have been introduced to Congress and to plan a unified strategy.
Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) has also proposed a temporary worker program in his immigration bill, but the program would only commence after the U.S. government met various goals for immigration enforcement, including reducing the number of immigrants in the U.S. with deportation orders. Children born to participants in this temporary worker program would not automatically become U.S. citizens.
Representative Tancredo's bill would authorize the military to assist in monitoring the border, make unlawful presence in the country a felony, and bolster employer sanctions. It would also deny government assistance to both undocumented immigrants and temporary workers.
Tancredo admitted his bill has little hope of passage, but said he offers the bill as an example of legislation that does not include amnesty, something he views as being part of both the Kennedy-McCain and Cornyn-Kyl immigration proposals.
Addressing shortcomings in border security, immigration enforcement, and immigration processes is among the six key imperatives guiding the agenda of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to Department Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Chertoff announced on July 13 that the DHS is working on improvements in their border security approach through increased staffing, new technology, and greater investment in infrastructure. He added that controlling the border requires reducing the demand for illegal immigration by steering economic migrants toward legal means of entry to the U.S.. He underscored the need for the President's proposed temporary worker program.
The announcement came at the end of the "Second Stage Review," a systematic evaluation of DHS operations, policies, and structures that Chertoff initiated upon taking office in February. Among other reforms, Chertoff proposed considerable restructuring of the department, including the creation of a department-wide policy office.
The reorganization would place Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) directly under the DHS Secretary, eliminating the mid-level management position of Under Secretary of Border and Transportation Security.
Among the more concrete proposals is a plan to collect 10-digit prints from first-time visitors to the U.S. as part of the US-VISIT program, which would offer greater accuracy than the current two-print intake system. Visitors would be required to submit only two prints on subsequent trips to the U.S..
Chertoff also alluded to reform of citizenship application processes, stating that current practices create long delays for those applying for citizenship, and leave important security checks until the end of the process.
Mexicans Voting Abroad. Mexican President Vicente Fox signed a law on June 30 allowing millions of Mexicans living abroad to vote in Mexico's July 2006 presidential elections through mail-in ballots. According to estimates, 11 million Mexican citizens, comprising about 14 percent of Mexico's electorate, may reside in the U.S. and other countries, though only about four million of these migrants are believed to hold valid voter registration cards. Mexican expatriates are legally allowed to vote and hold dual citizenship, but the lack of an absentee-voting system has made voting difficult for citizens living outside Mexico.
North American Trusted Traveler Program. The United States, Canada, and Mexico have agreed to implement a common "trusted traveler" program by 2008. The program will allow frequent border crossers to use special travel lanes at border crossings once they have submitted biometric personal data, paid a fee, and undergone a background check. The measure also applies to air and sea ports of entry. The announcement follows a meeting between interior security officials from the three countries, a follow-up to the March summit between President Bush, President Vicente Fox, and Prime Minister Paul Martin.
Integration Update: In-State Tuition for Immigrants. A federal judge in Kansas upheld a state law allowing unauthorized immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges. U.S. District Judge Richard Rogers dismissed the lawsuit on technical grounds, arguing that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue. The suit was filed by 24 out-of-state students and parents seeking to enforce a 1996 federal law allowing unauthorized immigrants in-state tuition only if the same rate is available to all U.S. citizens. The students' attorneys plan to appeal. Nine states have passed in-state tuition laws for undocumented immigrants. Congress has considered a bill, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) to amend the 1996 law's provisions on in-state tuition. However,the bill has not come to a vote and has not been introduced in the current session of Congress.
TPS Extensions for Hondurans and Nicaraguans. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) granted an automatic 90-day extension for the employment authorization documents of certain Hondurans and Nicaraguans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), officials announced July 1. Almost 100,000 immigrants from Honduras and Nicaragua were originally offered TPS after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. They have since been granted several extensions, including one in November 2004 that extended work eligibility until July 5, 2005. The most recent extension is intended to allow USCIS to catch up on backlogged paperwork.
GAO Report. A recent GAO report examining U.S. passport security looked at common types of fraud and problems in the State Department's access to lists of known terrorists and domestic criminals. The report, "State Department: Improvements Needed to Strengthen U.S. Passport Fraud Detection Efforts," found that the State Department is not systematically provided information on U.S. citizens in the federal government's consolidated terrorist watch list, nor does the department always obtain the names of individuals wanted by federal and state law enforcement agencies.
The report also found insufficient resources dedicated to preventing and detecting passport fraud. GAO recommended that the State Department improve information sharing on individuals of national security concern, and called for more training, staffing, and information-sharing on fraud detection tactics.
DHS Inspector General's Report. Some Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are unable to fill their prescribed job duties because they spend time assisting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in transporting illegal immigrants to jail, according to a report by DHS Acting Inspector General Richard Skinner. Neither ICE nor CBP believe that such transportation duties are the responsibility of their agency, a misunderstanding stemming from the separation of border patrol and enforcement functions when the former duties of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) were assigned to DHS. Lawmakers have considered reintegrating CBP and ICE.