WASHINGTON, DC -U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today announced that the bipartisan Gang of 8 introduced the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. Late yesterday, Menendez held a conference call with elected officials, religious, community and labor leaders from across New Jersey to outline the details of the comprehensive immigration reform legislation. He called the legislation a "victory for all of us who have fought so long and hard for fair, common sense reform."
"This bipartisan bill represents a significant milestone in our nation's efforts to fix our broken immigration system," said Menendez, a chief architect of the legislation and a member of the bipartisan Gang of 8. "It is the product of months of negotiations and is the most comprehensive immigration reform initiative in three decades. And it accomplishes something the American people have been asking for -- true bipartisan compromise."
Menendez reviewed all major components of the bill calling it a "game changer for millions of immigrants, for DREAMers, and for those hoping to build a better life in America for themselves and their families."
The bipartisan proposal is structured to both secure our borders and provide a tough, but fair, pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants who are already here in the United States. To do so, they must register for legal status, pass a background check, learn English, pay a fine and pay any necessary taxes as they work their way toward citizenship over time.
Menendez also worked hard to make sure the legislation recognizes the importance of family unity by allowing the immediate reunification of green card holders with their spouses and minor children. Going forward, people waiting for green cards in the family system can come to the United States to work and be with their families while they wait.
This morning, Senator Menendez also met in Washington with key immigration reform stakeholders to discuss the bipartisan legislation. Later tonight, Menendez will join some 50,000 people from across the nation - community and religious leaders, immigration advocates and others who want meaningful reform - on a national Community Call to talk about this bill and steps toward making it a reality.
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Path to Citizenship:
- The bill will offer citizenship to those who are already here if they register for legal status, pass a background check, learn English, pay a fine, and show their commitment to America by paying taxes and becoming part of the fabric of American life as they work their way toward citizenship over time. That pathway would take 13 years.
- While the pathway to citizenship may be longer than many would like, undocumented immigrants who meet all eligibility requirements and earn Registered Provisional Immigrant status, or RPI status, will be able to legally work in the U.S., travel outside the U.S. for short periods of time, and contribute fully to American society.
- To earn RPI status, eligible individuals must be physically present in the U.S. before December 31, 2011 and at the time of filing, and must submit an application shortly after the bill's enactment.
- The initial period of authorized admission for an RPI is six years, and the status is renewable in six-year terms.
- After 10 years of lawful presence in the U.S., RPIs may apply for a green card.
- Undocumented individuals will only receive a green card after every individual who is already waiting in line to receive a green card has been processed, but the bill includes measures to quickly clear the current backlog.
- For DREAMers, the pathway to citizenship is even shorter, requiring just five years in RPI status. This is the strongest DREAM Act proposal to be considered by the Senate in recent history. There is no age cap on DREAMers who came to the U.S. as children.
- Agricultural workers will also have a separate, expedited legalization program.
- Immigrants who demonstrate lawful presence in the U.S. for 10 years will be eligible for naturalization after just 3 years of permanent residency, not five as is currently the case.
- The bill's legalization proposal is contingent on increased border security, the metrics of which are objective and achievable - NOT subjective triggers that would preclude undocumented individuals from receiving legal status and eventual citizenship.
- For example, one border security trigger is the acquisition of new technology that can be achieved in a few short years. Again, this will not represent an obstacle to citizenship or hold up the process of undocumented individuals registering with the government and achieving provisional status shortly after enactment.
- Similarly, a plan is required to apprehend 90 percent of all individuals crossing the border illegally, but the effectiveness rate itself is not a requirement for legalization. This is an attainable goal that has already been reached in certain areas along the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Funding will be available to assist with securing the border, and will be rolled out in stages.
- In stage one, the Department of Homeland Security will have six months to develop a Comprehensive Border Security Strategy and Southern Border Fencing Strategy that must be submitted to Congress. The bill appropriates $3 billion for the border plan, and another $1.5 billion for an additional fencing plan.
- After five years, if the specified goals have not been met, a Commission will be established to make further recommendations for achieving the targets. The Commission will recommend up to $2 billion in additional spending for the achievement of any unmet border security goals.
- The bill invests resources to assist the border patrol with their governmental function of securing our borders. It will provide the latest technology, infrastructure, and personnel needed to prevent, detect, and apprehend unauthorized entrants.
- At the same time, it strengthens prohibitions against racial profiling and inappropriate use of force, it includes increased oversight mechanisms to hold the border patrol accountable, it enhances the training of border patrol agents, and it allows border communities to meaningfully share their input.
- The bill prioritizes family unity and allows the immediate reunification of green card holders with their spouses and minor children. Going forward, people waiting for green cards in the family system can come to the U.S. to work and be with their families while they wait.
- The bill also quickly clears out the family backlog. This is a huge win for our communities.Right now, the wait times in some family categories are up to 23 years - not a reasonable time to wait in line. No one wants to be separated from their spouse and child for extended periods of time.
- Additionally, to help keep families together, the bill grants immigration judges expanded discretion to terminate deportation orders and other immigration proceedings to prevent hardship to the immigrant's parent, spouse, or child.
- It also expands inadmissibility waivers, allowing people who are currently excluded from the legal immigration process to still qualify for legalization.