Whether you’re a citizen by birth, an immigrant, or you want to come to the United States, immigration laws are important to you. If they don’t affect your directly, they probably affect someone you know or they simply affect the culture and society of the town you live in. Unfortunately, no matter what your background or your politics, it is hard to deny that the immigration system in the United States today has problems. Some people say it is too strict. Some say it is not strict enough.
But almost everybody agrees it needs to change. The US government has responded by proposing a plan for changes to the immigration laws, called Comprehensive Immigration Reform, or “CIR.” It may sound complicated, but if you understand Comprehensive Immigration Reform’s six basic parts, it’s not so confusing after all.
The first part of CIR is to fix border enforcement. Many Americans believe that the borders of the country must be secured before anything else is done and CIR agrees with this. However, at the moment it is not possible because there is not enough money set aside. CIR would make the government able to pay for more border patrol agents, more government immigration attorneys, and more judges for immigration courts. It would also give money to build along the border, whether it is more checkpoints, more video cameras, or more fences. It would also make it mandatory for all employers to verify that all of their employees are permitted to work by checking with the Social Security Administration (SSA), a program called E-Verify. Finally, it would require the creation of a community-based program to be an alternative to detention. (Detention is similar to jail, except it is for illegal immigrants and not criminals.)
The second section is called “Interior Enforcement,” which is focused on preventing illegal immigration from the inside out. One part of this section focuses on stopping people from staying longer than their visas allow. For instance, the government does not always keep track of who is leaving the country. CIR would require it to keep track of who leaves – and therefore, the government would know who did not leave when they were supposed to! It would also make punishments worse for people who are here illegally. It also makes laws about detention clearer so that immigrant children will be better cared for and families with children will not be separated. It also requires that all detention buildings be close to places with free or low-cost immigration attorneys. Finally, it makes it possible to file for asylum even after one year has passed (which right now is the time limit).
The third section is on preventing people from working if they do not have permission. This would create a system so anybody who hires more than 100 workers will have to check in a special Department of Homeland Security verification system to be sure all employees have the right to work. It makes it illegal to discriminate against nationals or citizens of other countries and makes it possible to sue your employer if they don’t use the system properly. It also requires the SSA to issue fraud and tamper-resistant Social Security cards.
The fourth section focuses on reforming the current immigration system. It creates a new commission to recommend how many visas should be given each year based on the economy and labor markets. This means that if one type of job doesn’t have enough employees, more immigrants can come in to take those positions. It also reduces backlogs of family visas and promotes family unity by allowing more families to stay together and by making it possible for spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) to get residency without having to wait so long. It also helps agricultural or temporary seasonal workers by protecting them more.
Section five is highly controversial because it is about legalizing illegal immigrants. Any illegal immigrants in the US on September 30, 2010 who have not committed a serious crime will have to register with the government. If they do this, they will get a new status, called Lawful Prospective Immigrant (LPI) status, which means they will have permission to work and travel. After six years as an LPI, they can apply to become an LPR, but will have to pay a fine. This means anyone who is successful in maintaining LPI and then LPR status will eventually have a shot at becoming a US citizen.
The last section of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform focuses on helping immigrants adjust to life in the United States. Many new immigrants face a lot of challenges, and these programs would help them learn English and get job skills. It would also create an award for new citizens who do great things in the US.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform is confusing and controversial. However, it seems to have something for everyone, no matter what your politics are. It does make it harder to come to the US, but only if you’re trying to come illegally. If you’re trying to do the right thing and come to the US legally, it might even make things easier for you! Hopefully, this guide has made it easier to understand the basics of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
ImmigrationAmerica.org is a free website run by a licensed immigration attorney with years of experience. Our goal is to explain immigration law clearly and simply so you can understand.
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