Immigration reform needed this year
Senators are working out details on a comprehensive immigration reform package.
SENATORS have reached agreement on bipartisan immigration reform that would increase enforcement at the borders and offer legal status to undocumented immigrants. Congress must withstand pressure from street marches by Hispanic stakeholders and cries against "amnesty" by the Lou Dobbs brigade to avoid further delay of this legislation.
The Senate passed an immigration bill a year ago but House Republicans refused to convene a conference committee because of its proposed road to citizenship for illegal aliens. Democratic control of both chambers since then has given such an overhaul a greater chance for approval. President Bush supports the proposal.
The measure crafted by a group of about 10 senators, with participation by Bush administration officials, would give legal status to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, but only after they agree to pay fines of $5,000 and enforcement has been beefed up. They then would be granted "Z visas" allowing them to remain in the United States for eight years, renewable in four-year periods indefinitely, after applying from their home country.
It also would create a temporary worker program allowing foreigners to obtains visas to work in the United States for up to four three-year periods. The program would favor higher-skilled and better-educated immigrants, unlike the Bracero program of 1942-64, which resulted in 4 million Mexican workers remaining in the United States.
The proposal also calls for an electronic system for employers to verify whether job applicants are eligible to work. The Department of Homeland Security began a crackdown last year on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants to exploit cheap labor. However, such knowledge can be hard to prove. Employers' use of the electronic system to check Social Security or workers' identification numbers must be mandatory.
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