Legalizing undocumented immigrants is not new. European countries, including Italy and Spain, at different points, have legalized their immigrant populations. Spain called it normalization; others used the term regularization. These programs mostly stopped short of granting immigrants a path to citizenship or even permanent residence, which makes the U.S. Senate bill all the more audacious and in many ways, groundbreaking.  How, then can we craft an historic piece of legislation that will not only reflect our national values but also provide an example to show the world how it can be done?

Any legalization program must address a number of considerations and components prior to implementation. These include eligibility, waivers, confidentiality, due process and judicial review, background checks, fines and fees, status and rights of pending applicants, authorized stays, adjustment of status requirements, public information, and retroactivity of benefits.  Without built-in protections and procedural safeguards in the bill or rulemaking process, for example, legalization could trigger enforcement actions or litigation that undermines the entire process.

Senate Bill 744 will enter, in the next couple of months, the crucial phases of debate and scrutiny, mark-ups and ”mark-downs,” and eventually the much anticipated amendment process.  Not all of us will have the chance to visit our members of Congress or work with committee staff to ensure this immigration bill will emerge from the Senate with the above-mentioned components – and its integrity – intact.

Many of us have ideas about what we’d like to change in the bill or protect as amendments are offered.

What amendments of the legalization component of S.744 would you like to amend? 

What would you like to protect from amendments?

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  • Titbug

    I think one of the most essential part is making the path to citizenship – or rather the first step of bringing people out of the shadows – as open and as not restrictive as possible. The whole point of starting this process is to bring people in the system and know who they are so we can proceed with how to resolve each situation. So the more people they exclude, the less useful the legislation will be at solving the problem for the foreseeable future.

    For instance, it is legitimate to exclude people who have committed serious crimes from applying but the list should be more explicit and tightened so that – for example – random driving convictions cannot be counted as a disqualifier. Similarly, while I am certain it will impossible to achieve politically since Rubio bizarrely seems to have given this particular measure a lot of symbolic power, it was silly to put the cut off date at December 2011. Election Day 2012 would have been more sensible.

    The fees and fines are also understandable on principle but some allowances should be made for payment plans so that a “poll tax” to legal status is not put in place for people who often have very little money.

    If right from the get-go the bar is set too high people will just not come out which would defeat the whole purpose of this legislation.

    I am personally very concerned about the House version of the legislation. In their eagerness to prove “tougher”, I am afraid they will want to put more conditions to bring people in the system in the first place. if I remember correctly some of the Senate bills of the Bush era put a “work” or income condition on being able to apply for a temporary status which was a total nonsense – since undocumenteds by definition cannot work so when they do, they often cannot prove it, and cannot make a lot of money (not nearly enough to qualify for income thresholds for instance) and ironically this indirectly rewarded those who broke further laws by using forged papers and stolen SSN. That kind of restriction must be fought with force. Since the bill explicitly prevents RPIs from getting any public benefit, there is no need to exclude exploited workers in difficulty and punish poverty. Once they are allowed to work, immigrants will be able to earn their place in society and a proper income. They are hard-working and eager for it.

    The process must be as open as to as many of the 11 million as possible in the first place even if the process later on adds more conditions. People in their current situation are not able to jump through many hoops. Once they can actually work legally, they would be able to take actions when needed to fit whatever hurdles the actual path to citizenship poses. But do not retroactively limit the options or you risk prolonging the problem by making people stay in the shadows.

    My priority would thus be ensuring the process of applying for a provisional status is as open as possible.

    • Cynthia Buiza

      Titbug: Members of the “Gang of Eight” already contend that this is a generous, fair, if tough piece of legislation and that the bar is set neither too high nor too low, but rather straddles the world of political viability and legislative integrity. There are of course varied opinions about this, especially because RPIs’ lack of access to public benefits is a big barrier. What therefore does an “open” process, mean in a technical and legislative sense?

      • David Rivera

        The proposed legislation is neither fair nor generous. First it feeds into the negative mindset by speaking of the path to citizenship – a loaded word that rankles many a Nativist. People who have been here, in some cases in excess of 20 years, just need a way to obtain a green card. Citizenship is already triggered by how long one has been a green card holder and should not be changed in any way. To allow a Congress, which brought us the infamous “Fiscal Cliff” and “Sequestration,” to propose an RPI program that will not kick in until someone can certify that the border is secure is ludicrous. With respect to disqualification for crimes it would be far easier to continue to utilize the pre-existing inadmissibility grounds then to create a new set of hurdles that might be in conflict or be more onerous and restrictive. After all, much litigation and interpretation already exists and more is not ideal. Not to mention, that the legislation fails to acknowledge that two statutory fixes could render many others a quicker path to regularization. One is the NACARA conundrum that prevents a dependent family member from qualifying on the basis of an Immigration Court grant to the principal simply because the dependent is not in proceedings. The second fix, would be to announce that those with TPS status are deemed to be in status and may adjust if they otherwise qualify. Something originally intended by Congress but somehow lost on the agency.

  • D Tuomi

    Reunite the broken families. Lift the Bars on the deported, and let them rejoin their families in the U.S.

  • Jishnu Sharma

    As of now the bill prohibits international students who are out of status to be eligible for RPI. Please, Please I beg of you- it will prevent thousands of students who came on F-1 visa to be eligible for RPI. If someone who has violated F-1 visa goes back then there is a 10 year ban because he has stayed for more than a year. This was our only hope. Please bring an amendment so that international students who are out out of status is covered by this legislation

    • Matthew Kolodziej

      As the bill now stands, generally speaking undocumented immigrants who are out of status, including former students, who have been present in the U.S. since December 31, 2011 are eligible for RPI status. The 10 year bar due to previous illegal presence is waived. However individuals outside the U.S. or those have not been present since December 31, 2011 are generally not eligible.

      • Jishnu Sharma

        Hi, Thank You so much for replying! The reason why I was asking that question is because of an article which was published in NYDAILY NEWS. and it says, that there is a twist for international students. 2 people have told me that this article is incorrect. However, I would like to get an expert opinion on this matter.Thank You. Is this article incorrect because it says otherwise

        “http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/citizenship-now/immigration-proposed-reform-law-twist-article-1.1371879″

      • Jishnu Sharma

        Thank you for replying! This article says otherwise- The thing is that some lawyers have rubbished this report completely others are saying it is true that F-1 violations are not covered for RPI status. The same would be for H-1B visas (who have left their employer and is out of status as they have not returned to their home country). The senate’s office doesnt know about it. Do you think this article is correct? Thank you for replying once again

        http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/citizenship-now/immigration-proposed-reform-law-twist-article-1.1371879

  • Elizabeth Leete

    This is a terrible bill. Many feel they must support it, but the price of consensus is too high. It will help only a fraction of the undocumented, due to the many barriers along the way to full legal status. It will cost a fortune to fortify our Mexican border to rival the Berlin Wall. It will add numerous border officers who will belong to an anti-immgrant union and whose salaries will be a burden on taxpayers. A much simpler solution: eliminate the 3 and 10-year bars. Eliminate visa quotas and the visa lottery. Allow everyone who can legally immigrate under the current system to do so. Limit “aggravated felonies” to crimes actually punished by serious time served in jail.