Question: I have heard that new immigration legislation is being introduced to Congress. Is this true, what is it and what does it mean?

Answer: In the past 12 months several bipartisan measures have been introduced and are now pending in Congress, such as the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security (AgJobs) Act (S.1645/H.R. 3142) and the DREAM / Student Adjustment Act, (S. 1545/H.R. 1684) and more recently the proposed SOLVE Act of 2004.

The SOLVE Act of 2004 (Safe, Orderly Legal Visas and Enforcement Act of 2004) includes many important provisions that would address key problems of US immigration policy. If passed, this measure would be an important step towards reconciling the needs of US businesses and respect for family unity with law enforcement and security needs. Inherent in this comprehensive immigration reform is a recognition that the current system is dysfunctional and needs fundamental systemic changes.

Some key provisions of the SOLVE Act are:

– Earned Adjustment Worker Program: This would apply to immigrants who have been in the US for five or more years (as of May 4, 2002) and can show 2 years of employment in the US and the payment of US taxes. Applicants would need to undergo criminal background checks and a medical exam and must demonstrate an understanding of the English language and civics or be pursuing such a course of study. The principle applicant’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 would also be eligible.
– Temporary Worker Visa Program: This would establish a worker visa program for workers in low-skilled positions and would include a path to permanent residency wherein an employer could petition a worker or a worker could self- petition after two years of employment. Workers would be paid the prevailing wage and would have the right to pursue legal action against employers who fail to comply with the provisions and requirements of the program.
– Family Backlog Reduction: A family backlog reduction plan that respects family unity and acknowledges that the current family preference system is outdated and broken. The three and ten year bars to re-entry would be repealed.
– Enhanced National Security Measures: The programs would require participants to have machine readable, tamper-resistant visas and documents with biometric identifiers. Participants would undergo criminal and national security background checks to ensure eligibility.

If enacted, this measure would reward hard work and unite families while reducing the incentives to illegal immigration. It would be a major step towards fixing a broken immigration system that is ineffective and is compromising our national security.