Senate’s Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Eight U.S. Senators, Democrats Richard Durbin (IL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Robert Menendez (NJ), and Michael Bennet (CO), and Republicans John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) , Jeff Flake (AZ), and Marco Rubio (FL), have released their “bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform.”  There are four “pillars” in the framework:

  • Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
  • Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
  • Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,
  • Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

Even though the five page “framework” is not yet a bill, it already raises many questions. None of the legalization provisions would become effective until a commission finds that the enforcement provisions in the framework are “complete”, which would likely take many years to achieve.

And even after potentially millions of undocumented immigrants come forward and “register” with the Department of Homeland Security and meet all the requirements for legalization, none would receive legal status until ALL individuals currently waiting for permanent resident status have received that status.  Given that the current waiting time for spouses of permanent residents to receive permanent residence status is over 2 years and the waiting time is as long as 24 years for others, this proposed  “path to citizenship” could be very, very long.

The framework is explicit that there would be no eligibility for health care or other federal health programs for those waiting to be legalized.  There is no mention of the ineligibility for these programs for the millions of youth who have received or have applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, nor a repeal of the five-year waiting period for new permanent residents to become eligible for Medicaid.  This failure to include those who are new permanent residents or applying for legal immigration status in the health insurance coverage expansions under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will leave these millions of now legal immigrants uninsured.

And there is no mention of immigration rights for lesbian and gay binational couples, nor of needed reforms in the U.S. asylum application process for refugees.

President Barack Obama is expected to announce his proposals for comprehensive immigration reform tomorrow in Las Vegas.

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