Immigration Reform
By James E. Root
Los Angeles, CA

Recently members of Congress have introduced Immigration Reform legislation in the 109th Congress which could greatly affect foreign nationals. While there are numerous proposals, there are two in particular which have been at the forefront of discussion for those anticipating a dramatic overhaul in the United States immigration law.
The first proposal is the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005, introduced on May 12, 2005, by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and others, S. 1033. The second proposal is the Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act of 2005, introduced on July 20, 2005, by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ), S. 1438.
The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, S. 1033
Among other items, S. 1033 addresses several issues or concerns important to American businesses and families. The bill would create a new temporary worker visa program (the H-5A visa) to allow foreign workers to enter the US and fill available jobs (including unskilled occupations). H-5A employers would be able to immediately sponsor the H-5A visa holders for permanent residence, or the H-5A workers would be able to apply for permanent residence on their own after four years in H-5A status.
Additionally, there would be a new temporary work visa (the H-5B visa) for undocumented workers and their families present in the United States on or before May 12, 2005. The H-5B visa would be valid for a six-year period, and the H-5B worker would be able to apply for permanent residence status at the completion of the six-year period provided that the eligibility criteria is met, such as paying Federal incomes taxes owed, paying an additional $1,000 fine, demonstrating a basic understanding of the English language, and other requirements.
The bill also proposes to promote family unity by increasing the number of immigrant visas available each year, and thereby reducing backlogs in the family-based and employment-based preference categories. Furthermore, the bill would extend the eligibility for the immediate relative category (currently, children, spouses, and parents of US citizens) to include accompanying or following to join children of children, spouses and parents of US Citizens. Finally, the bill includes a proposal for a waiver of the 3/10 year bar for aliens who, on or before May 12, 2005, had pending family-sponsored or employment-based petitions. In order to benefit from this waiver, the aliens would have to pay a $2,000 fine for the violations occurring prior to May 12, 2005.
The Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act, S. 1438
In contrast, S. 1438 focuses on an enforcement approach to immigration reform. The bill proposes a “Deferred Mandatory Departure” program for eligible undocumented immigrants present in the US on the date of the bill’s introduction. Undocumented immigrants would have to establish that they were employed in the US since July 20, 2005, and have been employed since that date. They would also have to undergo various criminal and security background checks, and pay an initial fine of $1,000 in addition to application fees. Spouses and children of aliens under Deferred Mandatory Departure would be subject to the same conditions of the principal alien. However, they would have to pay a $500 fee in addition to application fees.
All aliens under the Deferred Mandatory Departure would be required to depart prior to five years. Failure to depart within the Mandatory Departure period would make the alien ineligible for 10 years for any immigration benefit or relief, other than asylum-based protection claims or similar relief.
Moreover, S. 1438 proposes to establish a worker visa program (the W visa). This nonimmigrant temporary category would allow foreign workers to enter the US and fill available jobs that require few or no skills. The foreign worker would be required to pay a $500 fine in addition to application fees, and undergo certain security and medical checks. The W visa would be valid for two years, after which the foreign worker would have to return home for one year. The alien would be able to participate up to three times (a total of six years employment), after which he would not be eligible to further participate. If the alien fails to depart upon the expiration of the W status, he or she would be subject to a permanent bar to benefits or relief, other than asylum or similar protection claims.
Under the W visa program, if an alien becomes unemployed for 30 consecutive days, he or she would be ineligible for hire until departing the US and reentering in W status.
Finally, S. 1438 would provide no avenue to permanent status. Therefore, on balance, it appears that the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act would provide more benefits for immigrants than the Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act. At this point, there is no guarantee which reform package will be approved by Congress, or whether an altered reform package will somehow become law. Nevertheless, there will be legislative debate and progress in the upcoming months in the effort for major immigration reform.
For more information and a “free” initial legal consultation please contact Immigration Attorney James E. Root at 1(888) ROOT-LAW or visit his website at www.RootLaw.com. Mr. James E. Root heads an Exclusive Immigration Law practice with two offices in Southern California.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 pakistanlink.com . All Rights Reserved.