Thursday, April 06, 2006

Immigration Compromise Reached

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) reached a bi-partisan compromise with the Senate sponsors of the pending comprehensive immigration reform legislation being advanced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA). According to a summary of the compromise released by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, undocumented aliens currently in the U.S. will be divided among three categories, based on their period of residence in the United States. Those categories are as follows:

  • More than 5 years-Those individuals who have been present in the U.S. for more than 5 years would be eligible to embark immediately on a path to earned permanent residence and ultimately citizenship. That path would involve a 6-8 year prospective work requirement, clean record, English language study, and the payment of significant fines and back taxes.
  • Less than 5 years but before January 7, 2004-The second category would be those undocumented aliens who arrived less than 5 years ago but before January 7, 2004. This group would be required to pay significant fines and, within three years, would be required to leave the country and reenter in a temporary status. Upon reentry, these individuals would have full portability and could apply for permanent resident status after the first category of undocumented workers completed their processing.
  • Arrivals after January 7, 2004-The final group of undocumented aliens, those who arrived after January 7, 2004, would be required to leave the country, but they would be permitted to apply for the new temporary worker program subject to the numerical limitations.

The compromise is being supported by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The compromise proposed is a fair and equitable approach. The requirement for the latter two categories to leave and reenter the country is not an undue hardship for the undocumented workers already living and working in the U.S. In the case of the second category, it appears they will simply be allowed to cross the border at a border check, and then immediately reenter with inspection. The latest arrivals will need to have an employee sponsor under the temporary work program, which would allow them to reenter quickly as well.

By moving these estimated 12 million undocumented aliens into a legal status, employers and employees will be able to report and pay taxes, which the government has not heretofore been collecting. Consumer transactions, such as banking, borrowing money and buying homes will be made much easier for these people, which will benefit our economy. It is worth noting that periods of economic growth and prosperity have followed previous "amnesty" programs for illegal aliens, including a program in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan and another under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

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