A bill that offers a comprehensive framework for a lasting immigration reform has been introduced by Senator Menendez (D-NJ), along with Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and John Kerry (D-MA). It is called the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) Act of 2011,” and unlike other proposals, this one includes strategies to address undocumented workers currently living in the U.S., with the creation of the “Lawful Prospective Immigration (LPI) status.” Applicants for LPI status would be required to submit biometric data, go through security checks and pay a fine. After anywhere from six to eight years of having LPI status, they could then transition to “Legal Permanent Resident (LPR)” status and obtain a green card, but only after they pay taxes and additional fines, learn English and U.S. civics and undergo additional background checks. It would also require those newly under LPI status to wait behind those already in line for LPR status.
Apart from including a DREAM Act and AgJOBS provision, this bill includes improvements to regulate the future flow of legal immigrants by creating a standing commission that would study labor market and economic conditions to determine the number of employment-based visas needed. The bill also supports programs that better facilitate immigrant integration, such as enhanced policies to help immigrants learn English and grants for states that successfully integrate newcomers. The bill also includes enforcement measures, one of which is meant to establish border enforcement triggers that would be met before unauthorized immigrants can apply for permanent residency; another, requiring DHS to track the departure of noncitizens to ensure they do not overstay their visa.
There is clearly no easy solution to fixing our broken immigration system. This proposal is one that offers a collection of smart and balanced fixes that would account for the vast and ever-growing undocumented population while also fixing the structural failures in the system and the gaps in enforcement. Sen. Menendez’ bill is a great start to finding a solution that incorporates the lessons learned by our failed policies and combining those with a reasonably comprehensive approach, along with the will to fix this problem once and for all.