Congressman Randy Forbes

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 To:  Citizens of Virginia’s Fourth District
 From:  Congressman Randy Forbes
 Date:  July 5
 Subject:  Constituent Brief: A Primer on Immigration Reform Legislation
                                       

Immigration has been an issue for the United States since its birth. Our nation has long recognized the value and importance of immigrants to our nation, and the equal importance of immigrants and citizens adhering to the rules of our legal system.

However, our immigration system today is broken. Over the past several months, several pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress to address various issues that have contributed to our broken immigration system.

It is my core belief that entry into this country is not a right, but a privilege that one earns. I have long opposed granting amnesty, and I continue to do so. We need an immigration enforcement package that will not only rein in the practice of entering this country illegally, but ultimately help promote legal immigration, continuing the tradition of America’s borders accepting new ideas and new people who share the same zeal for freedom that we do.

I have continued to work with my colleagues in the House Judiciary Committee on meaningful reform that focuses on what must be our first priority: enforcement of our immigration laws and ensuring the security of our borders.

I have prepared the following brief to provide you with information related to the major proposals currently before Congress. 

Yours in Service,
                
Randy

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Situational Outlook 

According to the Department of Homeland Security, there were 11.5 million immigrants living illegally in the United States in 2011, and according to a 2011 Pew Research Hispanic Center report, there were an estimated 8 million unauthorized immigrants in the nation’s workforce.

These illegal immigrants cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year, decrease the wages for legal workers, raise health care costs, and deplete public assistance programs. We need meaningful immigration reform.

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Legislation Currently Before Congress
The House and Senate are taking different approaches to address immigration reform. The House is planning to move individual bills; however, the Senate took up one large reform package, which it passed last week.  The following provides summaries of the Senate immigration bill and the four House bills that address immigration.


THE "GANG OF EIGHT" SENATE BILL

This Senate bill, originally drafted by a group of eight Senators, attempts to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and increase border security. Opponents of the legislation criticize the bill for trying to solve all of our immigration problems in one colossal bill. 
                   
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744
Status: Approved by the Senate

PROVIDES AMNESTY
The bill grants amnesty to roughly 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States.   After the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notifies Congress that implementation of a comprehensive strategy for securing the southern border has begun, DHS may start processing applications for registered provisional immigrant status.  Provisional status is not contingent upon the border being secure. To receive provisional status, an individual must have been here before December 31, 2011, must not have a felony or three or more misdemeanors, and must pay a $500 fine.

These individuals would be able to work and travel in the United States, but would not be eligible for federal health and welfare benefits. However, after 10 years of provisional status, the individuals would be able to seek a permanent green card if they have paid their taxes, pay a $1,000 fine, have maintained continuous physical presence in the U.S., meet work requirements, and learn English.

MANDATES BORDER SECURITY “TRIGGERS”
The legislation mandates that the following requirements be met within 10 years before anyone here illegally can obtain permanent status. These requirements include:

  • doubling the number of border agents on the U.S./Mexico border
  • completing 700 miles of border fencing
  • installing new security and surveillance measures along the border
  • implementing an E-verify system to be used by all employers

INSTITUTES SKILLED WORKER PROGRAMS
The bill would eliminate the visa lottery program, which randomly assigns visas to immigrants. A new merit-based visa would be implemented to award points to prospective immigrants based on their education status, employment, and other requirements. Those with the most points would be awarded visas. The bill would also allow 200,000 workers into the United States for work in the constructions, hospitality, and other industries.


                   
HOUSE IMMIGRATION LEGISLATION

The House has chosen to take up immigration reform by addressing individual problems within our immigration system, rather than pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach, because immigration reform is too complex and important to not examine each piece in detail.  Opponents of the House strategy say it is a piecemeal approach that fails to provide sweeping reform. The following bills are currently being considered in the House:


The Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act, H.R. 2278
Status: Passed Judiciary Committee; Pending House Vote

The SAFE Act seeks to improve the interior enforcement of our immigration laws by granting states and localities the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.  The bill strengthens national security by increasing border security, making it more difficult for foreign nationals who pose a national security risk to enter and remain in the U.S., improving visa security in high risk countries, and protecting American communities from dangerous criminal aliens.

CONGRESSMAN FORBES’ GANG BILL INCLUDED IN THE SAFE ACT
Additionally, legislation authored by Congressman Forbes to address gangs has been included in this bill. The legislation provides the Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney General with the power to deport or make inadmissible an individual who they know or have reason to believe is or was a member of a criminal gang and/or participated in criminal gang activities. Read more about that provision here.


The Legal Workforce Act, H.R. 1772
Status: Passed Judiciary Committee; Pending House Vote

The Legal Workforce Act seeks to deter individuals from coming to the United States illegally by shutting off the job magnet. Additionally, the bill could open up millions of jobs for unemployed American workers by requiring all U.S. employers to use E-Verify.  Created 15 years ago, E-Verify allows employers to electronically verify that newly-hired employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. The program quickly confirms 99.5% of work-eligible employees. The Department of Homeland Security states that 450,000 American employers already voluntarily use E-Verify and an average of 1,600 new businesses sign up each week.

Specifically, the Legal Workforce Act requires the use of an electronic employment eligibility verification system (EEVS) by U.S. employers. Additionally, it allows employers to condition job offers on a worker’s final verification by the EEVS.


The SKILLS Visa Act, H.R.2131
Status: Passed Judiciary Committee; Pending House Vote

This legislation provides American employers with access to the world’s best talent by allocating green cards to foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, increasing H-1B visas, and repealing the employment-based per-country cap.  The bill facilitates job creation by establishing a new entrepreneur visa program and strengthening the investor visa program.  It also eliminates nonsensical immigration programs, such as the diversity visa lottery, and contains a market-based approach to protect American workers.


The Agricultural Guestworker Act, H.R. 1773
Status: Passed Judiciary Committee; Pending House Vote

The bill creates a new temporary agricultural guestworker program to provide American farmers with access to a reliable workforce. American farmers have faced many hurdles and excessive red tape when hiring foreign workers under the current H-2A program. The AG Act seeks to replace the broken program with a new, sensible guestworker program that is designed to boost the modern agricultural labor market as needed. Specifically, it:

  • Eliminates excessive red tape
  • Protects farmers from abusive litigation
  • Enacts market-based approach to meet supply and demand
  • Helps American farmers keep up with global competitors

Under the new program, guestworkers are not eligible for Obamacare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, or other welfare programs.

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More Information

For more information on Congressman Forbes’ work on immigration issues, visit his website.

Comprehensive or step-by-step reform: which approach do you prefer? Weigh in here.

Do you support the Senate plan for immigration reform? Take Congressman Forbes’ survey here.                        

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