A group of U.S. senators led by Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, has released a detailed outline of a proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill entitled the Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform (REPAIR). The 26-page plan comes at a time when immigration reform is reaching growing support on both sides of the political spectrum and, if enacted, will affect practically every aspect of current immigration policy.
The bill first addresses the need for complete border control, recommending increased Border Patrol officers and Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents, improved technology and infrastructure and increased resources for the prosecution and deportation of drug smugglers, human traffickers, and unlawful border crossers. The group also proposes the construction of additional ports of entry, equipped with enhanced technology and connectivity to fingerprint databases, as well as hiring thousands of new Border Patrol agents. All officers and agents with CBP will receive additional training.
A bipartisan commission will review the state of security at both the northern and southern U.S. borders and will recommend improvements that Congress must enact within one year. Additionally, state governments will be unable to create their own immigration laws.
A new entry-exit system, United States-Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (“US-VISIT”), will be implemented to easily track individuals who enter the U.S. lawfully but stay past their visa allowance. The DHS will promptly investigate and remove individuals who have overstayed their non-immigrant visas. Any country in the Visa Waiver Program with a high percentage of visa overstays will be removed from the program. All criminals will be checked for immigration status and removed if they are here illegally. Additionally, current laws will be amended to encourage undocumented foreign nationals to leave voluntarily. All foreign nationals will be required to provide biometric information and those who refuse will be refused admittance or deported.
Biometrics plays a big role in this new bill. Within 18 months of passage of this proposal, the Social Security Administration must begin the process of issuing biometric social security cards. These cards will be fraud-resistant, tamper-proof, and machine-readable social security cards containing a photograph and a unique biometric identifier. This card will be used only for employment eligibility verification and not as a proof of citizenship or legal status. Employers will replace the current I-9/E-Verify procedures with the Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information, and Electronic Verification of Employment (BELIEVE) System as a means of verification. Employers who fail to comply or misuse the new system will be subject to substantial fines.
Visas for high skilled and low skilled workers will have new limits and protections from fraud and abuse. The proposal also outlines a registration program that requires undocumented foreign nationals to come forward, register and be screened, and complete other requirements to earn legal status if eligible. This includes the creation of a new status, Lawful Prospective Immigrant (LPI). LPI’s be allowed to work and travel outside the U.S. To be eligible for LPI status, an individual must complete an application supplying biographic and biometric information, pass security checks, and pay all applicable fees. After eight years and after clearance of the current backlogs, LPI’s who have completed additional requirements will be eligible to petition for Legal Permanent Resident status. Those individuals wishing to change their status must first show knowledge of basic citizenship and English language skills, prove continuous residence in the U.S., complete updated security checks, pay all income taxes, fees, and penalties, and register for Selective Service.