The Senate "Gang of Eight" was scheduled to release an immigration bill today. But out of respect for the horrific attack at the Boston Marathon, they delayed the release for a day or so. However, they did distribute a summary of the bill to news outlets and to others. Here is the inside scoop on the summary:
11 million people living in the United States may be able to gain a temporary legalization but only if:
- They have a clean criminal record
- They have been living here continuously since December 31, 2011
- They can provide the paperwork that documents the above
- They have enough money to pay for fees and penalties (between $600 to $1,100 per person)
- They can fill out the forms correctly
- They do this within 12-24 months
Those are a lot of "ifs" and the consequence for making a mistake, doing it wrong, or not doing it?
- Deportation or
- Living in the shadows under increased enforcement
We all just finished filling out our taxes, so we know what government paperwork is like. Now multiply this documentation requirement by 10 or so years of history, the average number of years that an unauthorized immigrant has been living in the United States. Most people will need help in applying and filing out the paperwork correctly. Now multiply that process by 11 million people, or if that is too big to imagine, how about just a quarter of a million people, the estimated size of the unauthorized immigrant population in Washington State? Now that is a lot of help needed. Casa Latina will be working with you-- our allies, our neighbors, our volunteers, and our donors-- to help our immigrant brothers and sisters to come out of the shadows, get registered, and get on a path to citizenship.
But first, we will need to speak up loudly, voicing our support for their chance to do so. Once this bill is released, we will be reading it closely. As always, the devil is in the details. We want to make sure that by the time it passes, it will have as wide and inclusive a path as possible, so that every single member of Casa Latina and of our community has a chance to live a life with dignity.
Stay tuned for more news on immigration and for opportunities to make your voice heard.
Other parts of the bill include:
- Increased border security, including the requirement that enforcement is 90% effective before anyone can get legalized. (We are very close to this level of effectiveness now.)
- Changes in the visa system so that there is a preference for immigrants who are well educated and will fill high demand jobs in math, science and technology
- Increased visas for low-skilled workers so that future immigrants will have a way to come to the US legally
- A fast track to citizenship for DREAMERs (students who came when they were young)
- A separate program for agricultural workers including a legalization program for those that are here, and a new guestworker program for future agricultural labor needs.
- The required use of a national database of with photos matched to social security numbers of all authorized workers (citizens and non-citizens alike) in order to get a job
- Additional requirements such as learning English and civics, working, and paying more fines and fees before getting a green card and then citizenship, making the path to citizenship at least 13 years long.