The details of a bill to reform immigration laws are coming out.
Republicans working on the bill (a part of “the gang of eight”) want border security before people start on the road to citizenship. By border security, they mean that 9 out of 10 people trying to cross the border without papers are turned away.
The bill says this goal should be possible within ten years. Democrats working for the bill say this border goal can be met in five years.
The bill also sets up a worker verification system to be used across the nation within five years. And it creates a program to make sure foreigners leave the U.S. when their visas expire. All of this must be done before the undocumented can start to apply for green cards.
The bill puts undocumented people behind the 4.7 million people who are waiting for permanent visas. Many of the applications for permanent visas are based on family ties.
In the future, a worker’s skills will be the most important factor in granting legal status. Farmworkers are to be covered in a separate program.
There are two big changes for permanent legal residents. Brothers and sisters will no longer be eligible for visas based solely on the citizenship status of their siblings. Spouses and minor children will have unlimited eligibility.
Undocumented people already here will be allowed to work and travel, but would not become permanent residents. It is not clear if they will still be subject to deportation for minor crimes.
Observers say it will be at least 13 years before undocumented people can apply for citizenship. When they do they will have to pay taxes, have no major arrests, have learned English and been regularly employed.
Many parts of the bill are intended to make the system work for those with skills in demand or who are already in this country legally. There is no dedicated path to citizenship for people who have lived in the country while undocumented.