The question of whether the legalization provisions of the Senate bill should be linked to border security provisions of the bill will be a recurring theme in the debate of S.744. The first test of this question will come today, when the Senate will consider Grassley Amendment No. 1195 to S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.
What the amendment says: “On page 855, strike line 24 and all that follows through page 856, line 9, and insert the following: (1) PROCESSING OF APPLICATIONS FOR REGISTERED PROVISIONAL IMMIGRANT STATUS.–Not earlier than the date upon which the Secretary has submitted to Congress a certification that the Secretary has maintained effective control of the Southern border for a period of not less 6 months, the Secretary may commence processing applications for registered provisional immigrant status pursuant to section 245B of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by section 2101 of this Act.”
What the amendment does: The amendment would delay the processing of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. into Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status until the Secretary of Homeland Security has maintained “effective control of the Southern border for at least 6 months.” This changes the bill’s original intention of beginning the RPI registration process immediately.
What is the impact on immigration reform? Grassley Amendment No. 1195 is a continuation of the “enforcement first” strategy that has been employed over the past two decades. The reason for creating a comprehensive bill is the recognition that successful immigration policy requires all of the components of reform to work in tandem, not one after the other, but all together at the same time. Creating a system in which the undocumented living in this U.S. have to wait additional months or years after bill passage to get onto the books and into a legal status, will effectively require the continuation of the status quo. The idea of this bill is not to maintain the status quo, (which is understood by everyone involved to be unacceptable) but to begin the process of securing the border and regularizing the status of 11 million undocumented immigrants at the same time.