How will the comprehensive reform will affect me and my immigration case?
The comprehensive immigration reform has reached a pinnacle as the Senate Judiciary Committee has passed Chairman Specter's 300 plus paged bill by a margin of 12 to 6 votes. Immigrant Advocate Groups hailed that the reform is long overdue and it will ensure a sensible immigration reform while anti-immigrant groups contends that the bill is nothing more than an Amnesty.
The bill is still in its infancy and before it becomes law the measure needs to make it to President Bush's desk to be signed into law. Presently the bill will be debated on the Senate floor. Majority leader Frist pledged that if the Senate Judiciary Committee meets the March 27, 2006, deadline for approving a bill, he would allow the measure to proceed. He further exclaimed that he would like a floor vote on immigration on immigration legislation by Easter recess next month.
To highlight some of the many proposed amendments to the bill which would affect Filipinos most are:
1. Amendment requiring authorities learn immigration status of people charged with federal crimes passed by voice vote.
2. Feinstein (D-CA) introduced her AgJobs bill as an amendment. The bill would allow up to 1.5 million agricultural workers (both documented and undocumented) over five years to become permanent residents. The measure also includes reforms to the H-2A program including replacing labor certifications with attestations and faster processing. The AgJobs amendment passed 11 to 5 in a roll call vote.
3. Kyl (R-AZ) amendment to limit guest workers to occupations with less than 11% unemployment in a metropolitan statistical area passed by a voice vote.
4. After both Senators Kyl and Kennedy introduced their respective versions of a guest worker plan, the Kennedy-McCain plan was approved by an 11 to 5 margin. This plan replaces the guest worker program in the Specter bill.
5. Grassley (R-IA) amendment to make changes to the L-1 visa program passed by a voice vote. The amendment would limit L-1 approvals to one year for aliens coming to the US to open a new office. It is not clear how this changes existing law which limits an initial L-1 approval to a year for a new office. Spouses would not be eligible for work authorization as an L-2 during this one year period. DHS and DOS will be required to cooperate to verify the existence of an overseas company.
6. Feinstein (D-CA) amendment to raise the application on the new F-4 student visas from $1000 to $2000 passed by voice vote.
7. Sessions (R-AL) amendment to delay implementation of all sections of the bill for at least 90 days to issue a report and see if errors need to be corrected approved by roll call vote.
8. Brownback (R-KS) amendment to exempt nurses and physical therapists from green card caps for seven years agreed to by voice vote.
9. Graham (R-SC) amendment to substitute Kennedy-McCain legalization program for Specter's "gold card" plan passed in roll call vote of 12 to 5. Kennedy agreed to sense of Senate language to be added saying that people in green card backlogs on the date of passage of the law would be processed before anyone benefiting from the new law.
10. Durbin (D-IL) amendment to strip out provision criminalizing illegal immigration status passed by roll call vote of 11 to 6.
11. Durbin (D-IL) amendment to add DREAM Act providing green cards to people who entered the US as children, have made good grades and who are attending college or join the military passed by voice vote.
The bill will be debated between now and then and many amendments are expected to be introduced. In case you are wondering how you will be affected with all these changes and reforms, well if you are one of the millions of people who have already filed an immigrant visa and have been caught in the Immigration Service backlog, one advantage is that the bill contains language that will ensure that those cases pending due to the backlog at the Immigration Service will be prioritized and will be expedited in lieu of the upcoming changes in the law. And if you happen to be one of the million people who have not filed any application or does not have a pending petition the bill may provide you with some sort of relief depending on the final outcome of the bill and its enactment.