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eLABORate: Democratic Senators in the United States Senate Release Draft Immigration Legislation

May 17, 2010

Democratic Senators in the United States Senate recently unveiled an outline for a bill to overhaul immigration. The Senate Democrats hope the outline will bolster support for pushing immigration legislation forward this year. The outline requires border protection benchmarks to be reached before undocumented immigrants who are currently present in the United States could begin a process to legalize their status. The outline also includes a plan for biometric Social Security cards; streamlining the process for the legal entry of immigrant workers; and, the creation of a labor market commission to make recommendations about the future flow of immigrant workers.

Specifically, Senate Democrats proposed increasing the number of Border Patrol officers, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, worksite enforcement inspectors, and document fraud detection officers. In addition, the outline proposes plans for improved technology at the border and increased resources to combat drug smuggling, human trafficking, and unauthorized border crossing.

The outline also includes a detailed plan for the issuance of biometric Social Security cards to be used to verify the work authorization of all new hires in the United States. According to the outline, the Social Security Administration would be required to begin issuing biometric Social Security cards to all workers no later than 18 months after the enactment of a comprehensive immigration bill. The cards would be fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear resistant, and machine-readable, according to the outline.

Further, the proposal features new fraud and abuse protections for the existing H-1B and L-1 visa programs for highly skilled workers, a mechanism for foreign students with an advanced degree from a United States university to immediately obtain a green card, and reforms to the H-2B nonagricultural, low-skilled seasonal guestworker program that are designed to protect U.S. workers.

The legislative proposal would also authorize the creation of a labor market commission on Employment-Based Immigration. This labor market commission would assess future employment-based immigration needs and, annually publish a report with recommendations to Congress. At this time, it is difficult to determine whether any immigration reform bill will actually be introduced this year or whether an immigration reform bill could pass both houses of Congress.