By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Jeremiah Johnson
Reeves & Associates has been closely following the proposed comprehensive immigration reform legislation and has been meeting and conferring with key congressional representatives to express our concerns regarding various provisions of the proposed laws that we discussed in our previous articles.
Immigration reform is a volatile political issue but, according to a recent CNN poll, 72% of Americans believe that undocumented aliens should be given the chance to legalize their status and 83% of Californians are in favor of a legalization program. Coincidentally, the White House has recently come up with a list of basic “principles” for comprehensive immigration reform.
In April President Bush traveled to the U.S./Mexican border to discuss comprehensive immigration reform. The President’s message to Congress and the American people was clear: enact comprehensive immigration reform into law this year. The White House had consulted with key Congressional Republicans in developing a set of “principles” for immigration reform. Although the White House’s proposals are described as “principles” they are not written in stone. They may be changed as Congress debates this issue. They do, however, provide insight on a possible political compromise that may be needed in order to enact this bill.
The President’s first two sets of principles are called “triggers.” Before relief becomes available for undocumented immigrants, the Government must take concrete steps to increase security along the U.S. border and give employers the tools necessary to verify immigration status. Once these “triggers” have been met, the President’s proposal calls for a guest worker program (“Y” Visa) and a legalization program to give undocumented aliens indefinite temporary status ( the “Z” Visa.)
The President’s proposal includes a new “Y” visa for temporary guest workers. While the seasonal worker could obtain a nine-month “Y” visa, then return home for three months, the non-seasonal worker may obtain a two-year “Y” visa and then have to return home for six months. The seasonal worker could renew his visa indefinitely while the non-seasonal worker could only renew for a total of six years.
One of the major principles in the President’s proposal is the opportunity for millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States to legalize their status. The President’s legislative proposal would create a new “Z” visa giving undocumented aliens “temporary indefinite status.” The “Z” visa would be valid for only a temporary period (three years), but it could be renewed indefinitely. In order to renew the “Z” visa the applicant must initially pass an English/civics test and pay a $ 3,500 fee for each renewal (every three years). “Z” visa holders will only qualify for permanent residency after those people who have been petitioned (already in line) receive their visas. While they are proposing an increase in the number of immigrant visas there still will be a limited number available. The President’s plan does contain a “touchback” provision, meaning the applicant would have to leave the US and then return. It would also require the payment of a fine.
Although the President’s proposal may differ on specific points from the STRIVE Act, the principles have a lot in common. The President, most members of Congress and majority of Americans appear to agree that comprehensive immigration reform is needed and should include an opportunity for undocumented families to legalize their status. Because the President’s proposals move the discussion forward, they are encouraging and may make the passage of comprehensive immigration reform a reality this year. Reeves & Associates will keep our readers informed of the progress of the proposed immigration reform law as it winds its way through Congress.