On December 15, Representative Gutierrez (D-Ill.) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform ASAP Act of 2009 (H.R. 4321) in the House of Representatives. To date, the bill has 92 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats. We link to the 644-page bill and to summaries of the bill from our “Immigration Legislation” page at:
The bill provides a generous legalization program whereby persons who were undocumented in the U.S. on December 15 would have to demonstrate that they have jobs, undergo criminal background checks, learn English, and pay $500 fines in order to gain six-year visas, and later to become lawful permanent residents. The bill incorporates other pieces of legislation, including the DREAM Act and the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act.
The bill would also provide for increased training and equipment for the Border Patrol, improved conditions for detainees, and an end to the controversial program whereby local law enforcement officers assist in federal immigration law enforcement.
Finally, the bill would increase and improve the current “preference” systems for admitting both employment and family-based immigrants.
In contrast to the Kennedy-McCain bill in 2007, the new bill contains no provision for a guest worker program. Instead, it would create a federal commission to study this issue.
Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a champion of immigration reform on the other side of the aisle from Mr. Gutierrez, noted this when he stated: “Any bill without a temporary worker program is simply not comprehensive.”
An indication of the vehemence of the opposition to the bill can be seen by the comment from Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), who said “The bill won’t pass because the American people oppose rewarding lawbreakers, which then encourages even more illegal immigration.”
Representative Gutierrez stated that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and the Obama Administration have agreed that the Senate will first take up the issue of immigration reform bill before the House of Representatives.
In January or February, it is expected that the Chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee Charles Schumer and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) will introduce a bi-partisan immigration reform bill in the Senate.
Since the Senate bill will be bipartisan, we expect that it will have tougher enforcement provisions, and less generous benefits provisions, than does the House bill.
President Obama has indicated that he wants Congress to pass an immigration bill in 2010, but not until Congress passes legislation to reform energy and to regulate financial markets. This could mean that Congress will be debating immigration policy just ahead of the 2010 elections in November.
Senator Schumer has indicated that the bipartisan bill will be based upon the following principles:
1) Illegal immigration is wrong, and a primary goal of comprehensive immigration reform must be to dramatically curtail future illegal immigration.
2) Operational control of our borders — through significant additional increases in infrastructure, technology, and border personnel — must be achieved within a year of enactment of legislation.
3) A biometric-based employer verification system — with tough enforcement and auditing — is necessary to significantly diminish the job magnet that attracts illegal aliens to the United States and to provide certainty and simplicity for employers.
4) All illegal aliens present in the United States on the date of enactment of our bill must quickly register their presence with the United States Government — and submit to a rigorous process of converting to legal status and earning a path to citizenship — or face imminent deportation.
5) Family reunification is a cornerstone value of our immigration system. By dramatically reducing illegal immigration, we can create more room for both family immigration and employment-based immigration.
6) We must encourage the world’s best and brightest individuals to come to the United States and create the new technologies and businesses that will employ countless American workers, but must discourage businesses from using our immigration laws as a means to obtain temporary and less-expensive foreign labor to replace capable American workers; and finally
7) We must create a system that converts the current flow of unskilled illegal immigrants into the United States into a more manageable and controlled flow of legal immigrants who can be absorbed by our economy.
Can 2010, an election year with the country mired in double-digit unemployment, be the right time for comprehensive immigration reform?
We have our doubts, but only time will tell.
We will continue to keep you informed of developments in Congress this year regarding immigration reform.
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