The bi-partisan, so-called Gang of Eight who have been
negotiating a comprehensive immigration reform package over the past few months
unveiled their framework for reform Jan. 28.
The framework has four major components: an earned path to
citizenship for the approximately 11 million individuals who are in the country
illegally; an improved immigration system, which would include reducing family
and employer visa backlogs and a new green card program for individuals who
have received a master’s or PhD degree in science, technology, engineering or
mathematics from an American university; an employment verification system; and
an overhaul of the system for hiring low-skilled workers.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the members of the
group, said they hope to have a bill ready for consideration by the Judiciary
Committee in March and hope to pass it by late spring or early summer.
In general, the principles coincide with long-standing NACo
The section of the framework that is both the most complicated
and the most sensitive concerns the path to legalization, which takes a
multiple-tiered approach. First, a series of border security measures would be
put into effect. As these measures are being implemented, undocumented
individuals would need to register with the government, pass a background check
and pay fine and/or back taxes in order to receive probationary legal status.
Once the enforcement measures are completed, individuals
with the probationary status would need to pass a second background check,
learn English and civics and demonstrate a work history in order to obtain
lawful permanent residency, or a green card, which is the next step before
citizenship eligibility. Additionally, they will not get their green card until
all other individuals who are waiting for a green card has received one. There
are two exceptions to these requirements: individuals who entered the country
as minor children and those working without legal status in the agricultural
In addition to Schumer, other members of the mmigration
reform effort include Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham
(R-S.C.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)