On March 27, 2006, after the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved its version of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation it was delivered to the full U.S. Senate for consideration. On March 6, 2006, both Senate Democrats and Republicans reached a “breakthrough compromise” under pressure by the President and other influential constituents who wished to complete immigration reform legislation before the U.S. Senate went into its spring break recess for two weeks. The Senate compromise legislation provides for enhanced border security, regulates the flow of future immigrants into the United States and settles the legal fate of the estimated 11 million men, women and children that are already in the country unlawfully.
While details of the compromise have yet to be finalized, among other provisions, it divides the current undocumented population into the following three categories, based on their period of residence in the United States:
• Those individuals who have been here and working for more than 5 years would be eligible for earned permanent residence and ultimately citizenship, which would involve a 6-8 year prospective work requirement, a clean record, English language study, and the payment of significant fines and back taxes.
• Those who arrived less than 5 years ago but before January 7, 2004 would be required to pay fines and, within three years, would be required to leave the country and reenter in a temporary status. Upon reentry, these individuals would have ability to change employers provided they remain employed and could apply for permanent resident status after the first category of undocumented workers completed their processing.
• Sadly, last group of undocumented workers, those who arrived after January 7, 2004, would be required to leave the U.S., but they would be permitted to apply for the new temporary worker program subject to the numerical limitations.
At this point, it is not clear how difficult it would be, particularly for those in last category, to get immigration visas to return to the United States.
This compromise legislation modifies the Guest Worker Program and the Conditional Nonimmigrant Worker Programs. At this point, we are still waiting to see what the full text of this Senate compromise immigration reform legislation will contain.
In the mean time, the immigration reform legislation currently favored by the House of Representatives is almost completely enforcement based and advocates among its stringent provisions mass deportation, non-compliance penalties and building of a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border.
What you must keep in mind, however, is that although this compromise is quite significant, once the full U.S. Senate approves this bill it must still be reconciled with the “enforcement-only” bill passed by the House of Representatives last December. In other words, this Senate compromise legislation must next be approved by the House/Senate conference committee by a 2/3 majority, before it can be presented to President Bush for signature. Then and only then will this legislation become law.
Mr. James E. Root devotes his legal practice exclusively to Immigration law. He has offices in the Los Angeles and Orange Counties. For more information and/or confidential legal consultation please contact Mr. James E. Root at 1(888) ROOT-LAW or visit his website at www.RootLaw.com.