In an opinion piece, to be published tomorrow, Friday, March 19, 2010, at the Washington Post, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) have unveiled their proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. The plan, as outlined in the Washington Post piece, sets several four broad principles for immigration reform.
Biometric Social Security Cards to Prevent Illegal Employment
The plan would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card. Each card’s unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone’s information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices. The card would be a high-tech version of the Social Security card that citizens already have.
Prospective employers would be responsible for swiping the cards through a machine to confirm a person’s identity and immigration status. Employers who refused to swipe the card or who otherwise knowingly hired unauthorized workers would face stiff fines and, for repeat offenses, prison sentences.
Strong Border Security and Interior Enforcement
The plan aims to bolster efforts to secure the borders by increasing the Border Patrol’s staffing and funding for infrastructure and technology. Additionally, other steps include expanding domestic enforcement to better apprehend and deport those who commit crimes and completing an entry-exit system that tracks people who enter the United States on legal visas and reports those who overstay their visas to law enforcement databases.
Creating a Process for Admitting Temporary Workers
The plan aims to attract the world’s “best and brightest.” The legislation would award green cards to immigrants who receive PhD or master’s degree in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) from a U.S. university.
Also, the plan calls for a system for admitting lower-skilled workers. The plan would facilitate the circular migration” of lower-skilled workers by allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can show they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position; allowing more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs and fewer in a recession; and permitting workers who have succeeded in the workplace, and contributed to their communities over many years, the chance to earn a green card.
Tough But Fair Path to Legalization for Unlawful Aliens
A tough but fair process is intended to allow unlawful aliens to find a way forward. Such aliens would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society by performing community service and paying fines and back taxes. They would also be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.
The Schumer/Graham plan has drawn an immediate vow of support by President Obama who has urged Congress “to act at the earliest possible opportunity.” Mr. Obama’s pledge to support the plan should suggest that some sort of immigration reform may be forthcoming; however, the Senators have not offered a concrete plan and have not suggested a timetable. Additionally, the White House has indicated that their top priorities (after health care, that is) are financial regulatory reform and campaign finance legislation.
Despite mixed messages from the White House, the Schumer/Graham proposal should help comprehensive immigration reform proponents in moving towards producing a bill and enacting it into law. We will continue monitoring any developments and reporting them.