How Immigration Reform Will Benefit Those with Unlawful Status

It comes as no surprise that the immigration system in the United States is broken. On Tuesday, April 16th the “Gang of Eight”, a bipartisan group of Senators, introduced immigration reform legislation, formally titled as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. There was much excitement from those who may benefit from the legislation if and when it is passed, however, we must realize that the bill will likely change before it is passed.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began marking up the bill on May 9th. The mark up process could continue through the end of the month while amendments are submitted. The bill will eventually take its final form where it will go up for a vote in the Senate; if it passes it will move to the House for a vote and eventually to the President.

As the proposed bill currently stands, those who are unlawfully present in the United States will be able to adjust their status to that of Registered Provisional Immigrant. The eligibility criteria requires that the individual: 1) have resided in the United States before December 31, 2011,; 2) pay a penalty fee; 3) not have been convicted of an aggravated felony, felony, 3 or more misdemeanors; or any offense under foreign law.

Those deported for non-criminal reasons can also qualify for Registered Provisional Immigrant Status as long as they were previously residing in the United States before December 31, 2011 and the spouse or parent of a United States Citizen or lawful permanent resident. Additionally, those who are in removal proceedings or have removal orders can also apply. The path to citizenship through comprehensive immigration reform will likely take about 10 years. During the process, Registered Provisional Immigrants will be allowed to work, have driver’s licenses, and a Social Security Number.

Before becoming a legal permanent resident, a Registered Provisional Immigrant will be required to maintain continuous presence, pay all taxes, have a regular job, and be able to speak English. Additionally, the priority dates of those who are waiting to legally immigrate to the United States will have to become current. This process is sometimes referred to as “getting in the back of the line.”

Individuals who qualify for or have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

(DACA) will also be eligible for Registered Provisional Immigrant Status. The proposed bill states that DACA recipients will be eligible for legal permanent resident status in only 5 years. Additionally, those who are DACA eligible will not have to pay any penalty fees. All other requirements, as outlined above, will have to be complied with as well.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 also includes many other provisions and changes for family immigration, employment visas, border security, and employment verification as well as a brand new W-Visa program for low-skilled workers. The process for this bill to become a law will likely take some time but the wheels are in motion for comprehensive immigration reform to become a reality.