US: a new immigration legislation in the making
The most far-reaching US immigration legislation in about two decades moved forward on a solid bipartisan vote in the Senate judiciary committee. Sí, se puede,” immigration activists shouted after the vote, reprising Obama’s campaign cry in his historic run for the White House in 2008.
In addition to creating a pathway to citizenship for 11.5 million immigrants living illegally in the country, the legislation creates a new program for low-skilled foreign labour and would permit highly skilled workers into the country at far higher levels. At the same time it requires the government to take costly new steps to guard against future illegal immigration.
Republicans have embraced the idea of immigration reform after a large majority of Hispanic voters supporters Obama in the 2012 election, leading to concerns that the party was out of touch with a younger, more diverse country.
In the hours leading to a final vote the panel also agreed to a last-minute compromise covering an increase in the visa program for hi-tech workers. The number of highly skilled workers admitted would rise from 65,000 annually to 110,000 with the possibility of a further increase to 180,000, depending in part on unemployment levels.
In the other chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, immigration legislation is due to receive a hearing in the judiciary committee on Wednesday.
The centerpiece provision of the legislation in the Senate allows people living in the US illegally to obtain “registered provisional immigrant status” six months after enactment if certain conditions are also met.
Applicants must have arrived in the United States before 31 December 2011 and maintained continuous physical presence, must not have a felony conviction or more than two misdemeanours on their record and pay a $500 fine.
The registered provisional immigrant status lasts six years and is renewable for another $500. After a decade individuals could seek a green card and lawful permanent resident status if they are up to date on their taxes and pay a $1,000 fine and meet other conditions.
Individuals brought to the country as youths would be able to apply for green cards in five years.
(via the guardian)