Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744) is an immigration reform bill introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) in the United States Senate  and co-sponsored by the other seven members of the "Gang of Eight" a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators who wrote and negotiated the bill. It was introduced into the United States Senate of the 113th United States Congress on April 16, 2013.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the bill in April 2013. The bill was voted out of Committee on May 21, 2013 and was introduced in Senate. On June 27, 2013, the Senate passed this bill 68-32. Whether the United States House of Representatives will even consider it is uncertain.
The bill would make it possible for many undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and eventually citizenship. It would also make the border more secure by adding up to 40,000 border patrol agents. It also advances talent-based immigration through a points-based immigration system. New visas have been proposed in this legislation, including a visa for entrepreneurs and a W visa for lower skilled workers. It also proposes new restrictions on H1B visa program to prevent its abuse and additional visas/green-cards for students with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees from U.S. institutions. The bill also includes a $1.5 billion youth jobs program and repeals the Diversity Visa Lottery in favor of prospective legal immigrants who are already in the United States.
Some politicians have commented that if this immigration reform does not pass the Congress, and the Senate and the House try to pass their own separate versions with no compromise, it could result in a stalemate with the problem of a broken legal immigration system remaining.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates this reform bill would reduce the US fiscal deficit by US$197 billion over the next ten years and by $700 billion by 2033. Its report also states that, if this bill becomes law, US wages would be 0.1 percent lower in 2023 and 0.5 percent higher in 2033 than under current law. The Social Security Administration says that this bill, if it becomes law, would help add $276 billion in revenue over the next 10 years while costing only $33 billion.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Salient features
- 3 Overview
- 4 Legislative history
- 5 Provisions
- 5.1 Title I - Border Security
- 5.2 Title II - Immigrant Visas
- 5.3 Title II - Immigrant Visas cotd.
- 5.4 Title II - Immigrant Visas
- 5.5 Title II - Immigrant Visas
- 5.6 Title III - Interior Enforcement
- 5.7 Title IV - Reforms to Nonimmigrant Visa Programs
- 5.8 Specific programs
- 6 Criticism
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The legislation would make serious and broad changes to existing U.S. immigration law. S.744 would create a program to help the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States gain legal status in conjunction with efforts to secure the border. It would also make changes to the existing system of legal immigration, attempting to make the system more responsive to economic needs. Other provisions would include the more extensive use of E-Verify by businesses in order to ensure that their workers have the legal right to work in the United States. This system has been criticized by some privacy advocates and groups concerned about the false positives generated by the system that prevent U.S. citizens from working. Additionally, on June 24, 2013, the Senate passed an amendment by 68-32 to this bill which would enhance border security by adding high-tech surveillance equipment and doubling the number of border agents to about 40,000 The bill has also passed the Senate by 68-32.
Conservative Republicans in the US House of Representatives are opposed to this bill. House Republicans and Speaker Boehner have said that this bill will not be introduced on the House floor, a tactic which has been called anti-democratic by some as it prohibits US House members from conducting a debate and a poll on this bill due to a so-called Hastert Rule. If US House Speaker does not allow the bill to be introduced in the House, it still has a chance to be introduced on the House floor through a discharge petition. A discharge petition signed by 218 members (or more) from any party is the only way to force consideration of a bill that does not have the support of the Speaker. However, discharge petitions are rarely successful. Some have commented that this bill may be considered amnesty. This bill proposes earned legalization for undocumented immigrants (they have to wait for 13 years, pay all back taxes, learn English, no legalization for people with criminal records, and citizenship or permanent residence only after the border becomes fully secure).
House Speaker Boehner has said that the House Republicans favor a piece-meal approach, i.e., several different bills instead of one comprehensive reform bill. Instead of putting the existing Senate bill up for vote and making necessary modifications, he says that the House plans to draft another bill of its own without any path to citizenship and without some other changes (such as introducing a visa for entrepreneurs and delimiting the use of H1B visas to prevent their abuse) that the Senate bill offers. Senator Chuck Schumer has commented that the strategy of passing smaller-scale bills would not work and that Democrats would not support an enforcement bill without the promise of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush called on the GOP-led House to pass a comprehensive immigration bill and asked his party to quit being "the obstacle" on the divisive issue.
Current situation is that of a deadlock between House and Senate. If no compromise is reached between the House and the Senate, this immigration reform effort could potentially fail once again like the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, with the problem of a broken and antiquated US immigration system remaining.
Most of the debate is focused on illegal immigrants but there is only a small part of the bill that deals with this issue (path to legalization). The rest of the bill focuses on:
- Adopting a points-based immigration system, like UK and Canada. This will allow acceptance of immigrants according to a merit-based system based on professional skills, family relations, and work history in the U.S.
- Stronger border security and law enforcement.
- Removal of per country green card quota limits, which would help in reducing the long backlogs. The wait time is in decades for some countries and many high-skilled immigrants (including U.S. educated immigrants), thus, tend to go back to their home countries due to the lack of a timely process.
- Creating a new INVEST visa which would allow prospective foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the US and start companies easily (under current law, it is extremely difficult to do so). Data suggests that companies owned by immigrants are likely to hire more employees than native-born-owned companies.
- Up to 25,000 more visas/green-cards to be allotted to foreign students who have earned a master's degree or above in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). Research has shown that, on average, every 100 foreign students who remain in the United States after receiving a degree in science, technology, engineering or math (a so-called STEM degree) create 262 additional jobs in US.
- Creation of W visa to allow low-skilled temporary workers.
- The bill would replace the H-2A visa program for agricultural workers with a new “blue card” for immigrants.
- Increasing the number of H1B visas and imposing restrictions on the companies who misuse this program.
- Allowing immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children to apply for registered provisional status, and to adjust that status to legal permanent residency after five years, faster than other undocumented immigrants.
- Transferring the quota of green cards now assigned to the Diversity Visa Lottery program to immigrants with advanced skills. Under the current DV lottery rules, lottery winners who have a high school diploma or "[t]wo years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years' training or experience" are eligible for consideration.
- Creating a program to provide jobs to low-income and minimally-skilled American youth.
The bill would provide illegal immigrants in the U.S. a pathway to citizenship for those who have resided in the U.S. before December 31, 2011. Undocumented immigrants would initially need to apply for a newly created Registered Provisional Immigrant status; in order to so immigrants would have to pay a fine and fees, any back taxes owed, pass a background check and not have a disqualifying criminal record. The bill also benefits children of undocumented immigrants & agricultural workers with the inclusion of the DREAM Act & AgJOBS Act. Immigrants who receive the Registered Provisional Immigrant status will be able to apply for legal permanent resident status (Green Card) as long as strict Border Security provisions are met, including: increasing the number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and officers; construction of a double layer fence along certain parts of the Mexico–United States border;and meeting a target of stopping 90% of illegal immigration border crossings. The bill would also drastically alter the methods of visa allocation under current family-based and employment-based categories, as well as introduce a new concept of a "merit-based" visa, which awards visas based on points accrued based on educational achievements, employment history, and other contributions to society.
(Need to highlight: border security and enforcement, + pathway to citizenship/Registered Provisional Immigrants, + changes to legal immigration) 
In many pieces of legislation, the bill opens with a section called "Congressional Findings", which are not details of the law, but rather information about the situation or general background that Congress wishes to provide to explain why the rest of the bill is necessary. In this case, Congress makes four statements of principles or aspirations explaining the need for immigration reform.
Congress makes the following findings:
- (1) The passage of this Act recognizes that the primary tenets of its success depend on securing the sovereignty of the United States of America and establishing a coherent and just system for integrating those who seek to join American society.
- (2) We have a right, and duty, to maintain and secure our borders, and to keep our country safe and prosperous. As a nation founded, built and sustained by immigrants we also have a responsibility to harness the power of that tradition in a balanced way that secures a more prosperous future for America.
- (3) We have always welcomed newcomers to the United States and will continue to do so. But in order to qualify for the honor and privilege of eventual citizenship, our laws must be followed. The world depends on America to be strong -- economically, militarily and ethically. The establishment of a stable, just and efficient immigration system only supports those goals. As a nation, we have the right and responsibility to make our borders safe, to establish clear and just rules for seeking citizenship, to control the flow of legal immigration, and to eliminate illegal immigration, which in some cases has become a threat to our national security.
- (4) All parts of this Act are premised on the right and need of the United States to achieve these goals, and to protect its borders and maintain its sovereignty.
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act was created by a group of eight United States Senators - composed of four Republicans and four Democrats - nicknamed the "Gang of Eight:" Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY). S. 744 was introduced into the Senate by Senator Schumer on April 16, 2013, with the other seven members of the Gang of Eight serving as co-sponsors.
The bill was referred to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which held hearings and markups about the bill. The Judiciary Committee held hearings about the bill on April 19, April 22, and April 23, 2013. On May 9, May 14, May 16, and May 20, 2013, the committee held consideration and mark up sessions. On May 21, the committee ordered the bill to be reported, with amendments, favorably.
Several other committees also held hearings about the bill. The United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held hearings on May 7. The United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held hearings about the bill on May 16 and May 22.
On June 7, 2013, Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, filed report 113-40 to accompany S. 744. The report included the views of the majority of the committee in favor of the bill, as well as minority views and opinions. The 187-page report includes information about why the new immigration legislation is needed, the history of the bill's consideration by the committee, as section by section summary of the bill, a copy of the Congressional Budget Office's report on the bill, some conclusions, and the minority views on the bill.
On June 11, 2013, the Senate voted in Roll Call Vote 147 84-15 to proceed with debate about the bill on the Senate floor. All 52 Democrats, both Independents, and 30 Republicans voted in favor of this. The Senate considered the bill on the floor on June 12–13, June 17–21, June 24–26, 2013. During this time, it was recommitted to the Senate Judiciary committee twice to make amendments.
Developments after Senate passage of June, 2013
The House of Representatives has not acted on this Senate bill. A statement of principles on immigration, released by Congressional Republicans on January 30, 2014, stated that “we will not go to a conference with the Senate’s immigration bill” and that “border security and interior enforcement must come first.” In the absence of a “comprehensive fix” from Congress, U.S. President Barack Obama announced on November 20, 2014 executive actions to “make our immigration system more fair and more just.” These actions included a long-contemplated program of "deferred action" which would allow an estimated 45% of unauthorized immigrants to legally stay and work in the United States. These executive actions are being challenged by lawsuits filed by individual states.
Title I - Border Security
Title I, which begins on page 33, covers changes being made to border security in the United States. Some of the goals mentioned below are also addressed in the preceding sector One of the major provisions of S. 744 is a focus on increased border security, primarily dealt with in Title I. The bill establishes a goal of achieving a 90% success rate (Section 3(a)(3)) of intercepting and deporting undocumented immigrants who attempt to cross the border in one of the "High Risk Border Sectors" - places where more than 30,000 people cross per year (Section 3(a)(5)). In order to accomplish this, the bill would increase the number of CBP officers by 3,500 people by 2017, authorize the National Guard to participate in missions related to border security, fund additional surveillance and surveillance technology, and provide funding to build a border fence.
After the enactment of the bill (should it be enacted), the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has 180 days to write and submit two reports. First, the "Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy", which is a strategy meant to explain their plans for achieving and maintaining effective control in all high risk border sectors along the Southern border (established in Section 5(a)). The "Southern Border" refers to the international border between the United States and Mexico. The report will be submitted to several committees in Congress for review. Section 5(a)(2) explains the elements that should be included in the report, namely criteria for measuring success, capabilities that need to be obtained for the success of the strategy (equipment, personnel, etc.), and the infrastructure and technology required.pg 19-20 Congress grants the Department of Homeland Security $3,000,000,000 in order to pursue this strategy (Section 6(a)(3)(A)(i)).
The second report that the DHS is required to write and submit in 180 days is the "Southern Border Fencing Strategy" to identify where fencing, including double-layer fencing, infrastructure, and technology should be deployed along the Southern border (Section 5(b)). Congress grants the Department of Homeland Security $1,500,000,000 in order to pursue this strategy (Section 6(a)(3)(A)(iii)).
The bill would focus on three particular high risk sectors - the Tucson sector in Arizona and the Rio Grande and Laredo sectors in Texas. Title I focuses on preventing additional illegal immigration into the United States.
Title I includes a number of provisions which are explained more explicitly in the bill's text. This is a short list of some of them:
- Definitions: "Rural, high-trafficked areas" are rural areas through which drugs and undocumented aliens are routinely smuggled, as designated by the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The "Southwest border region" is the area in the United States that is within 100 miles of the Southern border.
- Additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are added - 3,500 additional federal law enforcement officers to be trained by 2017
- Authorization for the National Guard to be deployed to the Southwest border for the following purposes:
- (1) to construct fencing, including double-layer and triple-layer fencing;
- (2) to increase ground-based mobile surveillance systems;
- (3) to deploy additional unarmed, unmanned aerial systems and manned aircraft sufficient to maintain continuous surveillance of the Southern Border;
- (4) to deploy and provide capability for radio communications interoperability between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies;
- (5) to construct checkpoints along the Southern border to bridge the gap to long-term permanent checkpoints; and
- (6) to provide assistance to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, particularly in rural,high-trafficked areas, as designated by the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
- Authorizes and funds border crossing prosecutions and related court costs in the Tucson Sector at a level sufficient to increase the average number of prosecutions from 70 a day to 210 a day ($50 million from the $3 billion Border Security Fund). It also provides increased funding for Operation Stonegarden to assist state and local law enforcement to help prevent illegal activity along the border.
- Provides additional funding for additional border patrol stations and forward operating bases to interdict individuals entering the United States unlawfully immediately after such individuals cross the Southern border and to provide full operational support in rural, high-trafficked areas.
- Provides funding for vital radio communications and interoperability between CBP -Office of Border Patrol and state, local, and tribal law enforcement to assist in apprehension efforts along the border.
The bill contains many border security measures, some of which must be implemented before illegal immigrants can adjust from the provisional status to full green card status. However, the DHS Secretary simply must submit a plan for border security within the first six months of the bill in order to initiate the provisional legal status for illegal immigrants. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) explained that whether or not the border is secure will have no impact on the advancement of the legalization of illegal immigrants, saying, "We're not using border security as an excuse or a block to the path to citizenship. [The Gang of Eight] wants to make sure the border is secure, but not to use it as a barrier to prevent the 11 million from eventually gaining a path to citizenship" The bill provides resources for additional CBP officers, improvements in the border security infrastructure, and increasing the number of immigration prosecutions. It also provides resources for and requires additional training for CBP officers.
The bill sets a goal of achieving a 90% success rate (Section 3(a)(3)) of intercepting and deporting undocumented immigrants who attempt to cross the border in one of the "High Risk Border Sectors" - places where more than 30,000 people cross per year (Section 3(a)(5)). In order to accomplish this, the bill would increase the number of border security personnel by 3,500 people by 2017, authorize the National Guard to participate in missions related to border security, fund additional surveillance and surveillance technology, and provide funding to build a border fence. If the bill is enacted, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has 180 days to write and submit two reports. First, the "Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy", which is a strategy meant to explain their plans for achieving and maintaining effective control in all high risk border sectors along the international border between the United States and Mexico. Congress grants the Department of Homeland Security $3,000,000,000 in order to pursue this strategy (Section 6(a)(3)(A)(i)). The second report that the DHS is required to write and submit in 180 days is the "Southern Border Fencing Strategy" to identify where fencing, including double-layer fencing, infrastructure, and technology should be deployed along the Southern border (Section 5(b)). Congress grants the Department of Homeland Security $1,500,000,000 in order to pursue this strategy (Section 6(a)(3)(A)(iii)).
Title II - Immigrant Visas
Subtitle A--Registration and Adjustment of Registered Provisional Immigrants
The focus of Subtitle A is changing the status of illegal immigrants already present in the United States. The section creates the category of "registered provisional immigrant" (RPI) and outlines the steps necessary to obtain this status, as well as what qualities or characteristics of an illegal immigrant will prohibit them from obtaining it. Immigrants must apply to have their status changed. In order to be eligible, they must have started residing in the United States prior to December 31, 2011 and have been physically present since then. They must then pay a $500 penalty fee, are assessed taxes, and must pay application fees to cover the cost of their application.
Illegal immigrants are ineligible to change their status if they:
- Spouses and children of people in RPI status can be petitioned for as derivatives of the principal applicant (but must be in the United States at the time).
- Immigrants in RPI status can work for any employer and travel outside of the United States
- Individuals outside of the United States who were previously here before December 31, 2011 and were deported for non-criminal reasons can apply to re-enter the United States in RPI status if they are the spouse, of or parent of a child who is, United States citizen or lawful permanent resident; or are a childhood arrival who is eligible for the DREAM Act.
- The application period will be for one year with the possibility of extension by the Secretary for an additional year.
- Individuals with removal orders will be permitted to apply as will aliens in removal proceedings.
- RPI status shall last for a six-year term that is renewable if the immigrant does not commit any acts that would render the alien deportable. Another $500 penalty fee is applicable at this time.
- The Secretary may collect a processing fee from individuals who register for RPI status in an amount that is sufficient to recover all of the costs of implementing the registration program.
- An individual who has been granted RPI status is not eligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit (as such term is defined in section 403 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. § 1613)).
- An individual who adjusts from registered provisional immigrant status to lawful permanent residence shall be deemed, as of the date of such adjustment, to have completed the five-year period specified in 8 U.S.C. § 1612 and 8 U.S.C. § 1613.
- A noncitizen granted registered provisional immigrant status under this section shall be considered lawfully present in the United States for all purposes, while such noncitizen remains in such status, except that the noncitizen
- After 10 years, aliens in RPI status may adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident Status through the same Merit Based System everyone else must use to earn a green card (described below)if the following things have occurred:
- The alien maintained continuous physical presence
- They paid all taxes owed during the period that they are in status as an RPI
- They worked in the United States regularly;
- And demonstrated knowledge of Civics and English
- All people waiting for family and employment green cards as of the date of enactment have had their priority date become current.
- A $1,000 penalty fee is rendered
Section 2103, the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2013) focuses on adjusting the immigration status of illegal immigrants who entered the United States as minor children. The Department of Homeland Security can change the immigration status of immigrants who arrived in the United States before turning 16, have been registered provisional immigrants for at least five years, and has earned an education in the United States (by graduating high school, getting a GED, attending 2 or more years of college education at a bachelor's degree level or higher) or spend four or more years in the Uniformed Services (with an honorable discharge). DREAM Act kids can get their green cards in five years and will be eligible for citizenship immediately after that.
Section 2104 - Additional requirements creates rules about how the data immigrants submit as part of their application can be used, limiting it to immigration related purposes. It also establishes some procedures for reviewing immigration status decisions and challenging them in court. Section 2105 - Criminal penalty describes the penalties (a fine of up to $10,000) to anyone who deliberately misuses immigration data by using it, publishing it, or permitting it to be examined.
Registration and adjustment of registered provisional immigrants
Title II of S. 744 focuses on three things: (1) creating the registered provisional immigrant (RPI) status, which illegal immigrants in the United States are eligible to apply for, (2) creating an Agricultural Workers Program, and (3) changing the existing rules governing the legal immigration process. This includes changing the requirements for family-based immigration, economic-based immigration, and merit-based immigration.
The bill creates a new immigration status, entitled Registered Provisional Immigrant status. Undocumented immigrants who get adjusted under the bill would not be legal permanent residents yet, but they would be in a legal status and would no longer be considered to be present illegally. They would also be permitted to work lawfully. In order to receive this status, undocumented immigrants would need to apply (which would have the effect of registering them with the U.S. government, hence the title of the status), pay both a fine and a fee, pay any owed back taxes to the IRS, learn English, and not have any disqualifying criminal history. Initially the status would be good for 6 years, with the possibility of having it extended for an additional 4 years. After a total of 10 years, then registered provisional immigrant would then have the opportunity to apply for legal permanent resident status, so long as the other triggers in the bill had taken place.
The triggers in the bill that would need to occur before registered provision immigrants could proceed to legal permanent resident status and ultimately to citizenship are related to 1) border security: there are several in this area but the key one requires that 90% of those attempting to cross the southwest border illegally be stopped; and 2) visa backlog reduction: other areas of the bill create changes in the visa allocation system intended to eliminate the visa backlog, and this must happen before adjustments from registered provision immigrant to legal permanent resident. This is the "back of the line" provision; the idea is that undocumented immigrants who gain status from this bill should not be able to become legal permanent residents sooner than someone who had legally filed a visa petition earlier and had been waiting for the approved visa to become available.
Title II - Immigrant Visas cotd.
Subtitle B--Agricultural Worker Program
Chapter 1--Program for Earned Status Adjustment of Agricultural Workers
- subchapter a--blue card status
- subchapter b--correction of social security records
Chapter 2--Nonimmigrant Agricultural Visa Program Chapter 3--Other Provisions
Agricultural Worker Program
Another key part of the bill is the agricultural worker program. The program consists of two subprograms, a so-called "Blue Card" status and a nonimmigrant agricultural visa program, or guest worker program.
Blue Card Status
The Blue Card program is a temporary legal status (similar to the Registered Provisional Immigrant status) that will be available to undocumented immigrants who can demonstrate that they have been in the United States performing qualifying agricultural work for a certain amount of time. Workers who obtain this status will have the opportunity later to adjust to legal permanent resident status if they meet certain conditions.
Title II - Immigrant Visas
Subtitle C--Future Immigration This section begins on page 256.
Subtitle C focuses on reforming current legal immigration law. This includes provisions about family members of U.S. citizens immigrating into the country, merit-based systems of immigration, and immigration related to work visas.
The bill makes many changes to current immigration system designed to control future flows of immigration. These include repeal of the diversity visa program, changes in several family-based visa classifications (e.g. elimination of sibling petitions for U.S. citizens and conversion of a petition by a legal permanent resident for a spouse or child to an immediate relative petition rather than a preference petition), and the ability to adjust future levels of worker visas (both those created by this bill and under current programs) based on economic conditions.
The bill also creates "merit-based" visas, which immigrants will eventually be able to apply for on the basis of a point system which awards points for various criteria, including educational achievement, involvement in society, entrepreneurship, and other factors.
The combined effects of the changes are intended to be greater control over future amounts of immigration and also the type of immigrant; the changes also reduce the share of family-based visa overall in favor of a greater number of employment-based and merit-based visas.
Title II - Immigrant Visas
Changes to family-based immigration:
- There are four preference categories (1, 2A, 2B, 3, and 4) based on family relationships and a minimum of 226,000 and up to 480,000 visas are allocated to these family preferences (in practice, it has always been 226,000 per year for the last decade). Under the new system there will be two family preference categories and they will cover unmarried adult children; married adult children who file before age 31, and unmarried adult children of lawful permanent residents (the current 1, age-restricted 3, and 2B preferences respectively, with 2A being made unrestricted). The bill would expand the current V visa to include those with family relationships.
- The bill repeals the availability of immigrant visas for siblings of U.S. citizens (the fourth preference) once 18 months have elapsed since the date of enactment. This preference has 2,473,114 backlogged applications as of the end of FY2012, and a wait time of 12 years (considerably longer for Mexico and the Philippines).
- The bill amends the definition of “immediate relative,” which provides for unlimited access to visas and includes spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens, to include a child or spouse of an alien admitted for lawful permanent residence (the current 2A preference), and the child or spouse of an alien who is accompanying or following to join the child, parent or spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The 2A preference has the lowest demand and shortest waiting time, but also a relatively large allocation of visas which could be used to help clear the backlogs in the other preferences.
- The bill amends the existing category for married sons and daughters of citizens of the United States (the third preference) to bar anyone from entering who is over 30 years of age. This preference has 830,906 backlogged applications as of the end of FY2012, and a wait time of 10.5 years (considerably longer for Mexico and the Philippines).
- The bill repeals the Diversity Visa Program. Aliens who were or are selected for diversity immigrant visas for fiscal years 2013 or 2014 will be eligible to receive them. See Section 2303 - Repeal of the diversity visa program.
Changes to employment-based immigration:
- On the employment green card categories, the bill exempts the following categories from the annual numerical limits on employment-based immigrants: derivative beneficiaries of employment-based immigrants; aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers; multinational executives and managers; doctoral degree holders; physicians with completed foreign residency requirements; graduate degree (conferred by U.S. universities) holders in STEM field with US employment; and physicians who have completed the foreign residency requirements or have received a waiver.
- The bill then allocates 40 percent of the worldwide level of employment-based visas to members of the professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent whose services are sought in the sciences, arts, professions, or business by an employer in the United States(including certain aliens with foreign medical degrees).
- The bill increases the percentage of employment visas for skilled workers, professionals, and other professionals to 40 percent, maintains the percentage of employment visas for certain special immigrants to 10 percent and maintains visas for those who foster employment creation to 10 percent.
- The bill creates a startup visa for foreign entrepreneurs who seek to emigrate to the United States to startup their own companies.
Merit-based visa system:
- The merit-based visa system is described in Section 2301 - Merit-based points track one and Section 2302 - Merit-based track two. The merit based visa, created in the fifth year after enactment, awards points to individuals based on their education, employment, length of residence in the US and other considerations. Those individuals with the most points earn the visas. Those who access the merit based pathway to earn their visa are expected to be talented individuals, individuals in our worker programs and individuals with family here. 120,000 visas will be available per year based on merit. The number would increase by 5% per year if demand exceeds supply in any year where unemployment is under 8.5%. There will be a maximum cap of 250,000 visas.
- Under one component of this merit based system the Secretary will allocate merit-based immigrant visas beginning on October 1, 2014 for employment-based visas that have been pending for three years, family-based petitions that were filed prior to enactment and have been pending for five years, long-term alien workers and other merit based immigrant workers.
Title III - Interior Enforcement
Title III of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act contains the following subtitles:
- Subtitle A--Employment Verification System
- Subtitle B--Protecting United States Workers
- Subtitle C--Other Provisions
- Subtitle D--Asylum and Refugee Provisions
- Subtitle E--Shortage of Immigration Court Resources for Removal Proceedings
- Subtitle F--Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and Abuses Involving Workers Recruited Abroad
- Subtitle G--Interior Enforcement
- Section 3713 repeals Renunciation Act of 1944) (the
The bill contains provisions for enhancing interior enforcement of immigration laws, including requiring the implementation of E-Verify for verification of the status of employees and increased protections of U.S. workers.
Title IV - Reforms to Nonimmigrant Visa Programs
Title IV of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act contains the following subtitles:
- Subtitle A--Employment-based Nonimmigrant Visas
- Subtitle B--H-1B Visa Fraud and Abuse Protections
- Chapter 1--H-1B Employer Application Requirements
- Chapter 2-- Investigation and Disposition of Complaints Against H-1B Employers
- Chapter 3--Other Protections
- Subtitle C--L Visa Fraud and Abuse Protections
- Subtitle D--Other Nonimmigrant Visas
- Subtitle E--JOLT Act (the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act of 2013)
- Subtitle F--Reforms to the H-2B Visa Program
- Subtitle G--W Nonimmigrant Visas
- Subtitle H--Investing in New Venture, Entrepreneurial Startups, and Technologies
Nonimmigrant Agricultural Visa Program
This program will be the new agricultural guest worker program, and will replace the current H-2A program which will be repealed by the bill. This program increases the number of workers available, and makes several key changes, such as allowing "permanent" guest workers (in the sense that the nonimmigrant agricultural visa would be portable from employer to employer as seasons change, rather than requiring a new visa for each season as the current H-2A program does) rather than only seasonal workers as the current H-2A program does. The bill also increases worker protections and raises minimum wages for agricultural workers.
Farm owners and farm workers have generally joined together in support of these provisions of the bill.
Reforms to Nonimmigrant Visa Programs
The bill makes numerous reforms to nonimmigrant visa programs, including the H-1B, L, student visa, visitor visa, and H-2B programs. The reforms are designed to in some cases make the programs easier to use, and also to enhance the systems used to monitor compliance by nonimmigrant visa holders with the visa requirements.
The annual cap on H-1B visas is increased substantially (from 85,000 to 205,000), but additional recruiting requirements are added that require positions first be posted on a government website for 30 days and offered first to qualified U.S. workers. The Department of Labor is given greater authority to review and challenge hiring decisions. Technology firms are lobbying against these provisions of the bill, arguing that it creates unwarranted governmental intrusion into internal hiring decisions and hampers the companies' ability to attract the most qualified employees from abroad. Senator Hatch of Utah has introduced an amendment that would remove these requirements.
E-Verify is an "Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States." The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act would require all employers to use the E-Verify system, phasing employers in based on company size over five years. The E-Verify system would also be enhanced by various changes specified in the law. One of those changes is the development of a photo matching system. All people (U.S. citizens included) will be required to show their employers a photo ID, such as a driver's license, passport, or (in the case of legal immigrants) their "biometric work authorization card" or "biometric green card." Their potential employer is required to look up the potential employee in the E-Verify database and compare the two pictures. Provisions are also made so that employees can "lock" their Social Security numbers in order to prevent other people from illegally using their same number somewhere else. The United States Customs and Immigration Services will have access to this system in order to track Social Security numbers with suspicious usage and attempt to catch the perpetrators.
Title IV, Subtitle H of the bill creates the INVEST visa (Investing in New Venture, Entrepreneurial Startups, and Technologies) for immigrant entrepreneurs. This new visa program would allow immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the United States, start businesses, and create jobs in America. There would be two types of INVEST visas. A nonimmigrant INVEST visa would be renewable provided certain initial investment, annual revenue, and job creation criteria are met within an initial three-year period. The immigrant version of the INVEST visa would have basically the same criteria just at higher thresholds.
Criticism of E-Verify
The E-Verify system, which employers would all be required to use if this bill becomes law, is a controversial provision of the bill. The changes made would require that all employees receive a positive "yes" from the government that they are permitted to work in the United States. This provision has been severely criticized by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union for changing the nature of the relationship between people and the government by creating a society based on receiving permission. In announcing their white paper on the subject, the ACLU wrote " In an attempt to stop the tiny percentage of those starting jobs in the United States each year who are unauthorized workers, E-Verify would force everyone to obtain affirmative permission from government bureaucracies before engaging in the core life functions of working and earning a living." Concerns about E-Verify have also included the potential for abuses and hacking of the databases used by the program, issues related to errors that wrongly keep roughly 400,000 people a year from being hired, and objections to the program as bringing the United States closer to having a national ID card.
Criticism of reforms to Nonimmigrant Visa Programs (H1B)
In his testimony to the Senate Judiciary, Dr. Ron Hira observed the bill is targeted at reducing cost to corporations by outsourcing USA citizen jobs to lower-cost foreign workers, rather than bringing the best and brightest into the USA. He states “S.744 expands the base cap substantially from 65,000 to 110,000. But it only increases the advanced degree cap from 20,000 to 25,000. This is one of the most baffling features of the legislation. Industry has repeatedly put the straw man forward that the cap is too low so foreign graduates of American universities are being forced out of the country. If there is any increase in the cap, and I don't think it is warranted, it should be allocated towards advanced degree graduates of U.S. universities.”
A Heritage Foundation study found that the bill would result in a net cost of $6.3 billion. The study's methodology and findings were sharply criticized across the political spectrum. Tim Kane, a scholar formerly with the Heritage Foundation, said that "[the] pileup of outlandish Heritage estimates presents a credibility hurdle." A report by the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office found that, instead, the bill would save $175 billion over the next ten years.
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|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- S. 744: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act – Full Text
- Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 – Full Text
- Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 - HTML version cross-referenced and with links to the INA
- Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 -Overview
- Library of Congress S. 744 - this official government page includes the text of the bill, its procedural history (with links to the congressional record related to debates, all of its titles, etc.
- beta.congress.gov S. 744 - this official government page includes the text of the bill, a summary, the procedural history, links to info about amendments, the cosponsors list, etc.
- GovTrack.us S. 744 - a non-partisan website that tracks legislation
- OpenCongress.org S. 744 - a non-partisan website that tracks legislation; offers info about groups that support or oppose the bill
- WashingtonWatch.com S. 744 - a non-partisan website that tracks legislation, focuses on data about how much a bill would cost the average family
- Rubio Press Release - One of Senator Marco Rubio's press releases regarding the bill; page includes links to a short summary and a FAQ page
- GovTrack Law List - a list of all existing laws that are amended by S. 744
- Senate Judiciary's Report - 113-40 - this is the report written by the Senate Judiciary Committee when they released the bill after markup
- Congressional Budget Office Report - June 18, 2013 - this is the Congressional Budget Office's report (released June 18, 2013) on the costs and effects of S. 744
- Factwalk: Immigration Reform Bill (S. 744) - a compendium of facts, information and opinion on S. 744