Although a marked improvement over the earlier version passed by the House, James Sensenbrenner's (R-WI) 'Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005"(HR4437) , this preliminary mark-up still contains some of the more draconian provisions from that bill, including the criminalization of "illegal presence", essentially making all undocumented immigrants subject to felony prosecution. It also contains new criminal penalties for the use of a fraudulent identification or passport even for asylum-seekers and others without the ability to obtain the paperwork legally, and calls for the further militarization of the border and the building of a "wall" across the border.
This preliminary proposal also calls for the following:
- A temporary guest worker program limited to three years with an additional three year extension.
- Increase in the current quotas for both employment and family reunification.
- A limited "amnesty" for those here since Dec.2004
But the devil is in the details.
As currently proposed, the guest worker program makes little provision for worker protections to ensure that foreign-born workers receive just wages and benefits, and provides no means for the workers to gain "earned" credit toward permanent residency.
The proposal to increase the current quotas does call for an adjustment to the per-country ceilings for both employment-based and family-based immigrant visas but does not go into any detail as to how. Currently no more that 7% of total immigrates admitted in any given year can come from a single country. Unless provisions are made to have a flexible ceiling that acknowledges the differing circumstances of various regions and countries, the quota system will remain a stumbling block to a practical immigration policy.
The provisions in this proposal to confer "Nonimmigrant Work Authorization and Status" to those living and working in the country prior Dec. 2004, while a step in the right direction, contains no provisions to place these workers and their families on a path to citizenship. Without a guaranteed path for those who wish to take it, the possibility of relegating these workers to a permanent underclass without full legal rights is possible.
This is just an early draft of the Senate proposal and much debate and compromise is bound to occur before it reaches the floor. You can contact the Senators of the Judiciary Committee to let them know your concerns at:
Justice for Immigrants
American Immigration Lawyers Assoc.
Cross posted from: Migra Matters