YESTERDAY, February 19, 2017, the Republican-dominated US Senate took a historic and partisan step toward an immigration system that works for those who want to come to the United States, love the country’s values and do not watch the “failing New York Times, CNN or the Washington Post”.
By an overwhelming margin of 88 to 12 votes, the Senate passed S. 744, (okay, it was plagiarized from the Senate bill under the Obama administration which left the Trump presidency a mess) the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act “to make America great again.”
That bill took a comprehensive approach to modernizing the US immigration system, providing a tough but fair pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants living in the country, updating the legal visa system for the 22nd century or after President Trump is re-elected for another four more years—whichever comes first—and making the largest and most expensive investments in border security to date.
The bill initially had a rough sailing at the House of Representatives, with the Democrats refusing to consider it. However, it passed after an “overwhelming, terrific vote” by “so-called legislators.”
Please be warned that the foregoing are alternative facts.
The following, however, are features of an immigration bill that should be crafted in the current Congress.
Of course, one can hope for a miracle, especially after presidential daughter Ivanka Trump was caught on camera casting glances at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau–hence the desire to compete with Canada on an immigration selection system that is points-based.
The bill’s key points
The preface to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill explains that:
1) The primary tenets of its success depend on securing the sovereignty of the United States of America and establishing a coherent and just system for integrating those who seek to join American society.
2) The US has a right, and duty, to maintain and secure its borders, to keep our country safe and prosperous.
3) While the US welcomes newcomers to the United States, they must follow the law; in essence, they must love America and its values.
The most significant aspects of the Act are:
1) Processing of applications for registered provisional immigrant status—but only after securing US borders which would primarily deal with:
Increased border protection, US Border Patrol – Not later than September 30, 2021, the Secretary shall increase the number of trained full-time active duty US Border Patrol agents deployed to the Southern border to at least 15,000 or up to 38,405.
National Guard’s participation – Where the immediate recruitment, training and deployment of the additional Border patrol agents are not feasible, the National Guards and the US Armed Forces in an executive order issued by the 45th President of the United States shall be deployed.
Enhanced equipment and technology – The Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, working through US Border Patrol, shall deploy additional mobile, video, and agent-portable surveillance systems, and unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles in the Southwest border region as necessary to provide 24-hour operation and surveillance. The equipment must “buy American and hire American” workers.
Interagency collaboration –The assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering shall collaborate with the undersecretary of homeland security for science and technology to identify equipment and technology used by the Department of Defense that could be used by US Customs and Border Protection to improve the security of the Southern border. Nordstrom should be barred from the bidding.
Removal of non-immigrant overstayers, especially bad hombres, in general – Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall initiate removal proceedings for non-immigrants, including tourists, students, workers who have entered the category of having exceeded their authorized period of admission by more than 18 days.
Preventing unauthorized immigration transiting through Mexico. A strategy to address the unauthorized immigration of individuals who transit through Mexico to the United States from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other countries while a most beautiful wall—paid for by the Mexican government—is being built.
Provisional registration of undocumented and unlawful immigrants including their spouses and dependent children in the US. An alien who is present in the United States on or before December 31, 2016, who submits an application for registered provisional immigrant status; had maintained continuous physical presence in the United States from December 31, 2016 shall be considered to be lawfully present in the US until the date on which the alien is granted status as a registered provisional immigrant. Aliens who were granted provisional registration could subsequently apply for green cards.
Green card issuance (lawful permanent residency) to children who are registered as provisional immigrants (RPIs) after five years residency in the US. If they have earned the appropriate diploma or degree after completing a two-year academic course or higher, and finally if they have served in the uniformed services for at least four years and, if discharged, received an honorable discharge.
Blue card issuance to agricultural workers who have worked in the US for 100 work days or 575 hours for the two-year period ending on December 31, 2016, or to the spouse or child of the blue card applicant who had been physically present on December 31, 2017, and has maintained continuous presence in the United States from that date until the grant of blue card status.
2. Points-based component of this act. 120,000 immigrant visas worldwide. There shall be two tracks for a merits-based migration based on points assigned to various criteria.
Lower points are to be assigned to aliens in a Tier 2 category in the same criteria. In addition, an alien who is or who has been a primary caregiver shall be allocated 10 points.
The high-demand Tier 1 and Tier 2 Occupations in different zones shall be determined by the secretaries of Homeland Security and Labor.
Merits-based Track 2
Eligibility – Beginning on October 1, 2014, the following aliens shall be eligible for merit-based immigrant visas:
1) Employment-based immigrants – An alien who is the beneficiary of a petition filed before the date of the enactment of this Act, if the visa has not been issued within 5 years after the date on which such petition was filed.
2) Family-sponsored immigrants – Beneficiaries of approved petitions, if visas are not issued within 5 years of filing.
3) Long-term alien workers and other merit-based immigrants who have been lawfully present in the United States in a status that allows for employment authorization for a continuous period, not counting brief, casual, and innocent absences, of not less than 10 years.
4) Raising age limit for adopted children from 16 to 18 years of age.
Canada’s point system
In addition to having a points-based system, Canada also has announced its intention to increase the number of immigrants to be accepted: up to 300,000 for this year. In contrast, the Trump administration has made its intention known to bring down the immigrant admissions to the US to the previous 400,000 level, a huge reduction from the current one-million green lawful permanent residents admitted a year.
Canada has a new immigrant selection system in place – the Express Entry – wherein applicants or candidates must provide evidence of English and/or French proficiency, and must be able to get the minimum number of points based on other factors such as age range, education, experience, previous studies or employment in Canada.
Candidates are selected from a pool (those who have met the essential requirements of language proficiency exam and assessment or evaluation of their credentials. A province may nominate a candidate in the pool and get 600 points. A job offer for a non-managerial occupation is 50 points. (These can be fact-checked. Now back to wishful thinking for a Trump immigration bill.)
Visa allocation under merits-based system
1) Spouses and children of permanent residents – visas immediately available after approval.
2) Other family members shall also be issued visas based on a subsequent formula allocation.
3) Family-sponsored – 480,000
4) Unmarried sons and daughter – 20 percent of worldwide annual family-sponsored limit
3) Employment-based – 140,000
a) Aliens who are members of professions holding advanced degrees or prospective employees of national security facilities – 40 percent of the total employment-based visa allocation.
b) Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers – 28.6 percent of total employment-based visa allocation.
c) Special immigrants – 10 percent of same allocation
d) Employment creation – also 10 percent of total employment-based allocation.
Don’t worry. As Ninoy said, “di ka nag-iisa.”
The 45th President of the United States is swirling around like a turumpo or spinning top.