Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today introduced comprehensive immigration reform legislation aimed at finally addressing the broken immigration system with tough, smart and fair measures. The bill, co-sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), addresses long-standing, wide-ranging flaws in the immigration system that have been priorities of groups on each side of the immigration reform debate. Measures include strengthening border security, enhancing worksite enforcement of immigration laws and requiring the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants present in the U.S. to register with the government, pay their taxes, learn English, pay a fine, pass a background check and wait in line for permanent residence.

"The American people are united in their understanding that our immigration system is broken," said Menendez. "They don't want partisan bickering and demonizing, they want a commonsense solution that addresses the realities of the situation, stops the flow across our borders and protects our economy. If we can put political grandstanding aside and work together on a comprehensive, middle-of-the-road bill like this one, we can bring all sides to the table. We can finally take action on a problem that has generated a lot of talk over the past decade but few results."

"The legislation Senator Menendez and I have introduced is an important starting point for this debate," said Leahy. "It protects the rights and opportunities of American workers, while ensuring that American farmers and employers have the help they need. It promotes jobs to help spur our economy, it supports families, it helps to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows, and it enhances our border security. These are goals we can all share."

Summary of legislation:

  • Smart, effective border enforcement including: 1) triggers that must be met before any unauthorized immigrants can apply for permanent residency; 2) expanded staffing for Border Patrol; 3) involving border communities in developing enforcement policy and 4) more resources for the Border Patrol.
  • Effective and accountable immigration enforcement inside the United States, including: 1) heightened penalties for criminal offenses; 2) expanded penalties for passport and document fraud; 3) requirements for DHS to track entries and exits at the border and 4) common sense rules governing detention to ensure U.S. citizens are not unlawfully detained and detention conditions meet basic standards
  • Worksite enforcement including: 1) an employment verification system to ensure employers no longer hire undocumented workers that will be mandatory for all employers within 5 years; 2) criminal penalties for fraud and misuse of Social Security numbers; 3) protections for workers to prevent fraudulent use of social security numbers, correct government database errors, and combat employment discrimination and 4) a voluntary pilot program that allows individuals to submit biometric identifiers to demonstrate work authorization.
  • The establishment of a commission on Immigration, Labor Markets, National Interest to evaluate labor and economic conditions and link employment visa numbers to need.
  • Policies that put American workers first and protect labor rights by significantly expanding labor protections in the current H-2A, H-2B, H-1B, L-1 visa programs.
  • Creates the structure for a new nonimmigrant visa program (H-2C), with portability and a path to permanent residency, that addresses gaps in existing worker programs that have lead to undocumented migration and undermined labor rights.
  • Reunification of families separated by outdated immigration laws.
  • A registration program that requires undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as of September 30, 2010 to register with the government, learn English, and pay fines and taxes on their way to becoming Americans (the Lawful Prospective Immigrant Program).
  • Programs to promote integration and English-language learning among immigrants.
  • The Dream Act, AGJOBS and UAFA (the permanent partners bill.)