At Last: Bipartisan Immigration Bill Introduced in Senate
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New York City (Wednesday, April 17, 2013)
At Last: Bipartisan Immigration Bill Introduced in Senate
Immigrant, Labor, and Faith Leaders Acknowledge this Historic Step and Discuss What Comes Next in the Fight for Immigration Reform
(New York, NY) After more than a decade of fits and starts, steps forward and back, in the immigration debate, we welcome the introduction today of a bipartisan immigration reform bill drafted by the Senate Gang of Eight, including New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer. On the steps of Judson Memorial Church, New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform, the largest and most diverse statewide coalition of immigrant groups in the nation, called the introduction of the bill an historic step forward toward a fair, humane and workable immigration system, while raising concerns nonetheless about some aspects of the bill.
[Photo Above] New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform on the steps of Judson Memorial Church on Wednesday, April 17th, respond to the Senate Gang of Eight immigration bill.
“We thank Senator Schumer and the bipartisan group of Senators for bucking partisan divides to craft a long overdue bill that provides a solid starting point for fixing our immigration system,” said Ms. Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “The bill’s introduction is the result of years of effort to raise up the stories and voices of immigrant families, workers, and businesses to highlight the harm done by the broken system, and ways the public interest can be served by repairing it. Work remains, no doubt: it’s not a perfect bill, and we have some real concerns. But we recognize the hard work and care that went into crafting it, and the historic opportunity this bill provides. We’ll rise to the challenge of moving the best bill forward, so the end result is an immigration system that honors family, respects human dignity, serves the economy, and upholds our core values as a nation.”
Summary Overview of Bill Provisions (not comprehensive):
The bill provides for:
- A path to citizenship for the undocumented. For most immigrants, the path will take thirteen years—ten years under the new status of “Registered Provisional Immigrant” (RPI), after which they can apply for lawful permanent resident status (LPR, or a “green card”); after three years as an LPR, they can apply for US citizenship.
- Certain immigrants (namely, farm workers and many of those who came to the U.S. before the age of 16) will have an accelerated path. These individuals will only have to stay in RPI status for five years before applying for LPR status, at which time they will be immediately eligible for US citizenship.
- Work authorization and travel outside the US. Under RPI status, immigrants will be authorized to work and allowed to travel outside the U.S.
- “Border Triggers.” Certain conditions pertaining to border security must be met before RPI’s can apply for LPR status.
- Eligibility requirements to apply for legalization. These include passing background checks, establishing continuous physical presence in the U.S.; and arrival in the US no later than December 31, 2011. Immigrants who have final orders of removal, or who have previously reentered the U.S. after deportation, are eligible to apply for RPI status.
- Bars to legalization. Individuals with certain criminal convictions may be ineligible for legalization.
- Fines and fees. Applicants must pay $2000 in fines and additional processing fees.
- Family unification for certain deportees. Certain immigrants previously deported for non-criminal grounds and who have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or child, as well as DREAM-Act eligible individuals, are eligible to apply for a waiver to reenter the United States in order to apply for legal status.
- Creation of a merit-based visa system in the fifth year after enactment. This system will award points to individuals based on their education, employment, length of residence in the U.S. and other considerations.
The bill includes provisions of concern to the New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform campaign, including:
- Border triggers as a condition for a path to citizenship.
- Prolonged period of provisional status.
- Arbitrary cut-off dates, other obstacles, and further limitations on who will be eligible for legalization and a path to citizenship.
- Eventual elimination of the U.S. citizen sibling visa category and diversity visas.
- Shift away from a family-based immigration system to a new merit-based visa system.
- Cap on age for adult married children visa category. Adult married children can only be sponsored by their parents if they are under age 31.
- No provision for family visas for same-sex partners. The campaign is calling for an amendment to include this provision.
- Billions of additional enforcement dollars.
- Mandatory electronic employment verification program. The program would be phased in over a period of five years until it includes all U.S employers. It would include new due process and privacy protections.
New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform pledged to fight for a wide and inclusive path to citizenship that is not thwarted by costly and unnecessary border security triggers or other obstacles and called for families, including adult children of all ages and the siblings of U.S. citizens, to be given a chance to reunite with loved ones.
Immigrant, faith, and labor leaders from across the State also responded to the bill.
“Introduction of the Senate’s immigration bill is a historic step, yet a first step in many to come,” said Angela Fernandez, executive director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “One of America's founding principals is that all people are created equal under the law. We have a responsibility, as a democracy, to uphold this principal. The decades-long dysfunction of our present immigration system has led to generational injustices that can only be remedied with expanded due process and civil rights protections. An immigration reform bill must include a fair hearing and access to counsel for anyone who is detained or in danger of being deported. We hope that as we enter the debate process that Congress votes on a new bill which creates an immigration system that is consistent with our American values of protecting our civil and human rights.”
“The introduction of the Senate Gang of 8’s immigration bill represents a historic moment. Today, we are closer to an America where hardworking immigrants can stand proud, side by side, amongst their peers and contribute to the American economy, and where DREAMers like me can truly envision our future here,” said Max Ahmed who is a DREAM Act-eligible youth and DACA recipient. “I recognize the efforts of the Senate Gang of 8 to address the monumental task of creating bipartisan immigration legislation; that is certainly no small feat. However, today is just the beginning and there is more work to be done to ensure no family is left behind. Together we will stand united to protect what we need in the bill and to fight for improvements in the bill that are missing.”
“The introduction of this immigration bill begins the legislative process that we have been waiting for and we thank the Senate Gang of 8 for rising to the challenge to create bipartisan legislation," said Graciela Heymann, executive director of the Westchester Hispanic Coalition. "This is an important first step toward our goal of passing fair and just immigration reform that reflects the needs of our communities, keeps families together and provides a direct path to citizenship. While we have a ways to go, we remain optimistic. We pledge to work with Congress to improve upon this bill and move it forward in the coming weeks.”
"The introduction of this bill is a good start to repairing our broken immigration system, and we hope that the national conversation on the passage of immigration reform moves forward with kindness and steers clear of anti-immigrant sentiment. We look forward to working with New York advocates in the New Yorker for Real Immigration Reform Campaign to pass a bill that has all of our communities best interests at heart,” said Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, senior minister at Judson Memorial Church.
"We commend the Gang of Eight, New York Senator Charles Schumer in particular, for taking on the difficult, but essential task of crafting legislation that takes us one step further down the path to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans," said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. "The Labor Movement remains committed to working with our allies and mobilizing our members to build on this bill and enact comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform as soon as possible."
"The introduction of the bill is a major step toward fixing our broken immigration system. And while we applaud Senator Schumer and the Gang of 8 in putting forth a bill, there is much work to be done to ensure that the final bill is a just and humane one,” said S.J Jung, board president of the MinKwon Center for Community Action. “Our Korean, Asian and immigrant community members from Jackson Heights to Chinatown to Flushing marched on the Capitol last week for immigration reform that will keep families together, but this bill eliminates the right of U.S. citizens to sponsor their sisters, brothers and adult children. This simply does not reflect the values of our country, and we will push forward to demand that Congress preserves the family-based immigration system that has helped keep this nation strong.”
"Undocumented Immigrant workers are very pleased to see real movement in the Senate with the introduction an immigration reform bill" says Valeria Treves, executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, "There are concerns however, about the length and conditions that must be met during the 10 year Registered Provisional Immigrant status including workplace problems that could arise from the work requirement provision, about being able to proved continuous physical presence and the arbitrary cut off line to qualify for the legalization program."
“Too many times I have stood by helplessly watching immigration agents removing fathers and mothers from their families and communities. I have held the hands of too many children as they watched their parents being ripped from their lives. I applaud our Senators for working together in an attempt to stop these nightmares. We can only hope that this is the beginning of decriminalizing all those farmworkers who are trying to sustain their families,” said John L. Ghertner, Rural and Migrant Ministry, Western NY Council and Migrant Support Services of Wayne County.
Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York said, "Arab American communities welcome the first steps taken by our elected officials to pass reform aimed at fixing our broken immigration system. Comprehensive reform must reflect our nation's values and include prohibitions on profiling and the preservation of the entire family system."
“The new proposal, which restricts family reunification while expanding the numbers of highly-skilled immigrant workers, represents a significant shift in our nation's immigration policy,” said Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “Bipartisan immigration reform could be a landmark achievement if the bill ultimately reflects the family values that have been so important to the Asian American community and to all Americans.”
"This bill is a response to the power Latino and immigrant communities showed at the polls last November. We are glad that the legislative process will now begin, and plan to use all the power we have built to ensure that the final product keeps our families together and provides a pathway to citizenship with respect and dignity," said Javier Valdes, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York.
“We are optimistic and cognizant that this bill is the beginning of a process to address this long standing issue,” said Estela Vazquez, executive vice president, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “We look forward to work with elected officials, community groups, and the immigrant community to improve the bill and win passage of Comprehensive immigration reform. Now we have to work even harder to insure that 11 million undocumented immigrant can come out of the shadows and walk in under the sun of justice and partake in the American Dream."
“The Long Island Immigrant Alliance (LIIA) recognizes and salutes the Gang of 8's endeavor in framing an initial bill. LIIA is ready to work with lawmakers to build upon and improve the bill,” said Luis Valenzuela, executive director, Long Island Immigrant Alliance.
“Millions of undocumented immigrants have lived too long in fear of their lives being uprooted, their families torn apart, their dreams of a better life in America shattered,” said Shirley Aldebol, vice president of 32BJ. “For too long, they’ve been vulnerable to exploitation and subjected to unsafe conditions, poverty wages, exhausting hours and physical and emotional abuse. This long-awaited plan to repair the nation’s broken immigration system could end their heartache, and puts the American dream within their grasp.”
“We have been a family for more than two decades, but our family is invisible under the immigration bill introduced yesterday. While we are grateful to see a long overdue path to citizenship, and other important components, included in the bill, LGBT families should not continue to be treated differently under our country’s laws,” said Santiago Ortiz & Pablo Garcia, same-sex binational couple, Immigration Equality. “If we were a straight, married couple we wouldn’t have to wait another decade for citizenship; we’d already have it. Senators need to fix this flaw in the immigration bill as it makes its way through the Judiciary Committee so that all families are recognized as family under our immigration laws.”
“The introduction of this Senate bill represents not only the bi-partisan Congressional support for true reform, but also the years of organizing, voter registration, and community building undertaken by groups all over the country including Hudson Valley and New York,” Betsy Palmieri, executive director, Hudson Valley Community Coalition.
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The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees.The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fosters their leadership, and provides a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.
The New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform campaign is a statewide campaign coordinated by the New York Immigration Coalition and endorsed by over 150 labor, faith, grassroots and immigrant organizations from across the state. The coalition is calling for an overhaul of the immigration system to meet the needs of the economy and keep families together.