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U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar was one of the three Democrat Senate negotiators for today’s immigration reform compromise.
The 300-plus page bill has not yet been released publicly, but may be available tomorrow.
Marilyn Musgrave appears unwilling to support the bill.
“I support enforcing our borders, improving the employer verification program, and I continue to oppose any plan to grant amnesty to illegal aliens,” she said in a prepared statement.
Here is a summary of the bill’s provisions:
— Undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before Jan. 1, 2007 — an estimated 12 million — would get immediate, but probationary, legal status and ability to work and travel if they pass background checks.
— Undocumented immigrants and their families could get new “Z” visas good for four years, but renewable indefinitely, by paying a $5,000 fee per head of household. After eight years, holders of Z visas could apply for permanent legal residence — a green card — by returning to their home countries and paying another $4,000 penalty.
— Between 400,000 and 600,000 foreigners would be able to come every year to work. They could stay for two years on new “Y-1” visas then return home for one year and could renew the visas for a total of six years in the country. They could bring their families with them for one two-year period.
— New Z and Y visas would not take effect until the Department of Homeland Security had met new border security and immigration enforcement conditions, including: expanding the Border Patrol to 18,000 agents; constructing 200 miles of vehicle barriers and 370 miles of fencing along the border; deploying four unmanned aerial vehicles and 70 ground-based radar and camera systems along border; establishing a secure identification system to verify workers are eligible for jobs.
— Employers would have to use a new electronic system to verify new hires are eligible for work within 18 months. Three years after that, all employees would have to have ID verified through the new system.
— The current green card system would be replaced by a new point system, with applicants getting credit for English proficiency, job skills, education and family ties. Spouses and children of U.S. citizens could still qualify for unlimited number of green cards. Parents of U.S. citizens could get up to 40,000 green cards per year. Spouses and children of permanent legal residents could get up to 87,000 green cards per year. About 380,000 green cards would eventually be issued via point system.
— Total number of green cards issued per year would be about 1 million, same as current law.
— Agricultural workers could get new Y-2A visas good for 10-month stays in the United States every year.
— Undocumented immigrants under 30 who came here as children would be eligible for green cards within three years.
Sen. Salazar cautions there may be changes in the bill in the coming days but labels the bill a “good beginning.”
Not surprisingly, Rep. Tom Tancredo doesn’t like the bill:
Tancredo, a Republican presidential candidate and a hard-line foe of illegal immigration, called the proposal “instant amnesty” for millions of people in the country illegally. He said senators behind the proposal think they can trick Americans into accepting blanket amnesty by referring to the program as “comprehensive” or “earned legalization.”
“The president is so desperate for a legacy and a domestic policy win that he is willing to sell out the American people and our national security,” Tancredo said.
I don’t like the fine. I don’t agree that the undocumented should have to separate from their families and return home to gain a path to permanent legal residency or citizenship. And I have concerns about the point system that will stress job skills over family reunification.
But, I’m going to try to keep an open mind.