THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE STRENGTHENED S. 744 BY
- Making the path to citizenship more efficient and practical. By adopting Hirono 12, the SJC ensured that immigrants along the path to citizenship will be able to pay application fees on a more affordable installment plan, ensuring more low-income immigrants will be able to pay the $2000 required to pay for the path over time. And by adopting Blumenthal 12, the Committee recognized the sacrifices of individuals who want to serve in the Armed Forces by extending the accelerated citizenship option already in law to individuals legalizing under the bill.
- Improving due process and community safety in immigration enforcement. The Committee showed concern for protecting the well-being of children and families caught up in immigration enforcement, passing four amendments to strengthen the law, including the bipartisan-sponsored Franken 7 (as well as Franken 8, Feinstein 6 and Hirono 22).
Additionally, the committee showed bipartisan—often unanimous—support for provisions restricting ICE enforcement actions at schools and hospitals (Blumenthal 8); limiting ICE’s policies of mass solitary confinement (Blumenthal 2); restoring some due-process rights to immigrants in detention or deportation proceedings (Coons 5/6); and limiting certain deportation practices that put lives in danger (Coons 2). These amendments all represent substantial improvements on current policy; by adopting them by consensus, the Committee showed that they are ready to put limits on overzealous enforcement.
- Improving the rights of immigrant and U.S. workers and small businesses. The Committee improved the W visa (essential worker) program by adopting Schumer 5, protecting the ability of W visaholders to change employers without losing their visas. Additionally, the committee strengthened regulation of foreign recruiters (Blumenthal 4-5) and established rights for immigrant workers to access their employment records (Blumenthal 18) and to be told when an employer runs an employment verification check on them (Coons 1). By adopting Franken 2 and 4, the Committee substantially eased the burden small businesses will have to face in complying with mandatory E-Verify (electronic employment verification) within 5 years.
THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE WEAKENED S. 744 BY
- Giving in to classic tricks from opponents of reform that use process requirements to narrow the path to citizenship. In an unusual change that may be impossible to implement, Cornyn 4 requires DHS to spend 60 days tracking down and contacting victims of any crimes committed by RPI applicants before considering whether to approve their applications. Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than other people, and there are already robust provisions to keep serious criminals from getting green cards. So what problem is the amendment trying to solve? This is just a classic Cornyn tactic to find a way to use “immigrant” and “crime” in the same sentence, and try to delay legal status for a group of immigrants who are eligible under the bill.
Additionally, by adopting Grassley 44 to expand the definition of “aggravated felony” to include a third DUI conviction, the Committee encouraged the continued expansion of a term that already applies to far too many crimes that are not aggravated or felonies, and leads to the deportation of longtime legal immigrants (including permanent residents) for mistakes that occurred long ago, with no meaningful access to judicial review.
- Creating substantial obstacles for student visa, asylum, and RPI applicants in a misguided attempt to respond to the Boston Marathon attacks. Two amendments the committee adopted require more aggressive monitoring and enforcement of student visas (for both students and institutions alike) by USCIS, CBP and ICE (Grassley 69 and 77), and will put many students and schools at risk for harsh punitive measures as the result of the actions of a few “bad apples.” Additionally, the committee agreed to strip refugees and asylees of their status if they returned to visit their countries of origin for any reason whatsoever (Graham 1), and to subject undocumented immigrants applying to get on the path to citizenship to additional interviews and screening depending on the part of the world they came from (Graham 3).
- Wasting taxpayer resources on security theatre on the border and at ports of entry. Yielding to a continued onslaught from opponents of reform, the Committee agreed to continue the expansion of a mandatory biometric entry-exit system (Hatch 6), despite decades of evidence that DHS is not yet able to implement such a system in a cost-effective and secure way. The Committee also expanded the bill’s border-security metrics to include “low-risk” sectors of the border (Grassley 1), preventing DHS from devoting its resources primarily to the parts of the border that need the most attention.