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A Comprehensive Proposal For Immigration Reform: Charting A Path For Progress

Author: New York Immigration Lawyer

The history of immigration laws in the United States is a long, winding road that seems never-ending. Most of the disagreements and various attempts at reform have stalled at the highest levels of government. Some might feel that a universal solution to immigration issues may never occur, but this article will outline a strategy that just might work.

The Current Landscape

As a nation built on the backs and strength of immigrants, finding a solution that works is of great importance. In recent years, discussions surrounding immigration reform have intensified, yet no major ratification has been passed in nearly 40 years.

Despite the urgent need to address the outdated system, political polarization and competing interests have hindered progress. That is because almost all the proposals have been supported or opposed purely along party lines. There have been very few instances of full or even majority bipartisan consensus on any immigration policy. They include border security concerns, humanitarian crises, and the fate of undocumented immigrants already residing in the country.

Opposing Views with Little Middle Ground

Over the last 30 years or so, the theme has been continuous debates over a few major points. The two sides of the aisle have opposite opinions on what ‘immigration reform’ means. To the Republican Party, immigration policy means a total crackdown on all forms of undocumented immigration. That involves heavily policing borders and ports—even a wall with Mexico from Tijuana to Texas. Legal pathways to migration should be strictly monitored, and all illegal immigrants should be rounded up and booted out.

On the other hand, Democrats believe that the best policy is to make immigration easier. The majority of immigrants, especially from the south border, should be given assistance and helped to settle down. Undocumented immigrants already in the country should be started on the road to citizenship and allowed to lead the lives they have established. Against this backdrop, the need for a pragmatic and bipartisan approach to immigration reform becomes increasingly evident.

The Proposal for Immigration Reform

There have been opportunities to pass some policies concerning immigration in the recent past. Democrats had enough of a majority in Congress to get something done during Obama’s first term. Yet they passed up the chance. In addition, both sides of the aisle have not done enough to find unilateral support for any proposals.

A comprehensive proposal for immigration reform would need to tackle all the key aspects of immigration reform. The outlined plan needs to be a multi-faceted approach to address border security, undocumented immigrants, and legal immigration. It would also need to address current immigration policy issues, such as the status of DACA recipients.

Merit-based Legalization for Employable Immigrants

One fact that cannot be denied is how much the American economy relies on the labor of immigrants. The overwhelming majority of illegal migrants come to the US seeking employment and the opportunity to establish a living. They do not come to join gangs or commit violent crimes. In addition, many of them do jobs that American citizens shun, so saying that they steal jobs is also a myth. Of course, there are well-educated migrants who make vital contributions to the workforce and taxes. A merit-based legalization policy would give such people a chance.

Filling the Need For Workers

There is a serious shortage of skilled workers in many sectors in the US. Manufacturing, finance, and hospitality industries are experiencing significant worker shortages. A unique visa that is based on an employable skillset would provide incentives for illegal migrants to start legalization. It would also inject much-needed skills into the workforce. A chance to petition for status as a legal resident of the United States after a predetermined amount of time would be well received. Applicants should be required to demonstrate that a status modification is warranted on a discretionary basis.

A Points System for Ranking Immigrants

An established system for evaluating immigrants is currently used in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. There is no reason why it would not work in the US. Canada has devised an especially efficient system for ranking immigrants based on a number of criteria. Such. A proposal has already been made in the US Congress by former Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York. It was put before Congress 10 years ago, but could not pass.

Reducing the Scope of Immigration Policies

One reason why Republican support is hard for Democrats to garner is because most of their policies are too broad. It is part of the never-ending opposition to Obama’s DACA. The Democrats last attempt at legalization would have opened a way for over 4 million illegal migrants to gain permanent residency. A better approach would be to table policies that tackle specific issues at a time.

A Path to Bipartisan Consensus

Any comprehensive immigration reform proposal requires navigating a complex legislative process and finding common ground. Moreover, public sentiment plays a vital role in shaping immigration policy. While challenges and differing opinions persist, it is imperative that policymakers and the public engage in constructive dialogue. That is, if they would stop shouting at each other for a moment to actually listen.

Recent Immigration proposals:

Dignity Act 2023 vs. Citizenship 2023

Bot proposals have the same emphasis on border security, and revamping the immigration system, providing pathways to green cards and citizenship to otherwise undocumented US residents. However, the Dignity Act focuses on several non-green card obstacles first calling a “redemption” and dignity program, while the citizenship act is more straightforward pathway to a green card, among other important changes to the current Immigration law.

Citizenship Act of 2023 is packed with great, innovative solutions to ongoing problems.

The new proposal include, among other things:

  • Providing an earned path to citizenship for people who contribute to their communities, including their spouses and children. The bill enables individuals who have lived in the United States for years, and in some cases for decades, to keep their family together lawfully and earn the security and stability of U.S. citizenship.  The bill establishes a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented noncitizens by allowing them to apply for temporary legal status (“Lawful Prospective Immigrant Status”), with the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residence (i.e., “green card”) after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay taxes. Dreamers, recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and agricultural workers who meet specific requirements will be immediately eligible for green cards. Eligible spouses and children are included.
  • Eliminating discrimination in the immigration system experienced by LGBTQ families. The bill creates a new definition of spouse to include permanent partners and eliminates discrimination against LGBTQ+ families by permitting citizens and permanent residents in binational same-sex relationships to sponsor their permanent partners for immigration to the United States and to serve as qualifying relatives for other immigration benefits and purposes.  The bill also extends automatic citizenship to children with at least one U.S. citizen parent, regardless of the biological relationship to that parent.
  • Protecting orphans, widows, and children, and provides equal treatment to stepchildren. The bill expands current protections to ensure that the death of a sponsor does not prevent the immigrant from establishing eligibility for the relevant benefit, prevents the children of fiancés of U.S. citizens from aging out of the visa application and green card processes, and provides equal treatment for stepchildren to qualify as “immediate relatives” as long as they were under age 21 at the time of their parent’s marriage. The stepchildren proposal is innovative, because currently, a stepchild will qualify for any sponsorship by a US citizen parent only if the marriage between the parents happened prior to the child’s 18 birthday. The proposal will push this limit to “under 21” rather than 18.
  • Reforming the family-based immigration system by reducing the immigrant visa backlogs. The bill recaptures unused family-sponsored visas since FY 1992 and exempts from the numerical limitations: (1) spouses, permanent partners, and children under the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents; (2) derivative spouses and children of principal applicants; (3) individuals who have been waiting to be reunited with their families for more than 10 years; and (4) sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans.  The bill also alleviates lengthy wait times for individuals from higher-admission states by raising the per-country limits from 7% to 20%.
  • Eliminating statutory barriers that prevent families to unite: The bill eliminates the three and ten-year unlawful presence bars and the permanent bar on admission, protects children from aging out of visa eligibility due to processing delays, and ensures that beneficiaries of family-based petitions retain their earliest priority date even if they later become eligible for a visa under a different category. The only current solution for the 3- and 10 year bars would be an I 601A provisional waiver.

The Dignity Act 2023 proposes the following:

  • Legal Status for Undocumented Individuals:

    • Dignity Program -
      Creates the Dignity Program and the “Dignity” legal status. Dignity status would grant undocumented people in the United States legal status, along with work and travel authority, and grant them a permanently renewable legal status for as long as they meet criteria. Participation in the program would require Dignity beneficiaries to pay $5,000 over the course of 7 years (the duration of the program), as well as pass a criminal background check, pay any outstanding taxes, and begin or continue paying taxes. After that is completed, a person will have a choice to join a redemption program: – A secondary five-year program available to Dignity recipients at the end of the initial 7-year Dignity Program. Participants must complete additional requirements; upon completion, recipients would be eligible to apply for citizenship. Military Service – Dignity recipients within enlistment age have the option of enlisting in the Armed Forces and pursing their citizenship through service if they so choose.
    • Certified Agricultural Worker – Creates a renewable legal status for undocumented agricultural workers. Creates an opportunity for long-term agricultural workers to adjust to Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status if they

      • have worked at least 180 days in agriculture in the 2 years prior to introduction;
      • be inadmissible or deportable from the United States on the date of introduction; and have been continuously present in the United States from the date of introduction until the date they are granted CAW status.
      It also addresses Dreamers, TPS holders, and proposes an “asylum reform” by introducing processing centers in Latin American countries.

    As such, both proposals contain solutions for those who have no “status”, with the Citizenship Act containing faster pathway to green card, more solutions for family immigration issues, and aims at making the system equal and more just.

    What do we have now for those who are undocumented? While sometimes, a person may qualify for a grandfathering “old” law solution, some options may involve for those who qualify: an I 601A waiver, Cancellation of removal, an asylum (for those who can restore their asylum deadline if missed), U visa, T visa to name a few.

    If you need an Immigration solution, call us at 917 885 2261 or book an appointment here.

    27 June 2023
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