The group of Senators known as the “Gang of Eight” formally filed the long-awaited immigration reform bill this morning. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, as it has been titled, contains provisions relating to border security, employment verification, and a path to permanent residency, among other provisions.
The path to permanent residency, Registered Provisional Immigrant (“RPI”) status, would be available only to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before December 31, 2011. Immigrants who have voted illegally or have any foreign or domestic felony convictions or more than three misdemeanors will not be eligible. Additionally, immigrants may also be deemed ineligible for RPI status based on national security, public health, or certain moral grounds. The bill allows for spouses and children to be petitioned as derivatives.
The bill also proposes some significant changes to the immigrant visa categories. The Fourth Preference category for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, as well as the Diversity Visa category, would be eliminated. However, in order to alleviate the enormous backlogs that have plagued the U.S. immigration system for so long, the bill would exempt certain employment-based immigrants from the annual numerical limits and create a new “Merit Based” category. The Merit Based Visas would be awarded under an annual quota based on a point system, with points being awarded for education, employment, length of residence in the U.S., and other considerations.
A summary of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 can be viewed here.