A bipartisan group of eight senators has reached an agreement for legislation that could be the beginning of the comprehensive immigration reform we have all been waiting for. The proposal was announced on Monday and commended by President Obama in an address in Las Vegas on Tuesday. The Senators proposing the legislation include Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
The policies envisioned by the Senators will be sweeping, and include the following provisions:
- A path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants already in the United States;
- Expansion of the lawful immigration system so as to provide more green cards for immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology, or engineering from American universities;
- An increase in the visas available for low-skilled workers;
- The establishment of an agricultural worker program; and
- Laws allowing for increased hiring of immigrants by employers who demonstrate they cannot recruit U.S. workers.
Additionally, it is noted that the steps toward creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would be contingent on the completion of enhanced border security endeavors and creation of a system affording additional oversight of visa holders. The policies also include creation of an effective employment verification system.
In his address on Monday, Obama offered some of his own ideas for legislation, including court reform, judicial review, options for entrepreneurship, and expansion of the definition of families to include same-sex couples. He also hopes Congress will work toward making the means of lawful immigration broader and more inclusive.
The bipartisan agreement thus far is not much more than an outline, as the Senators intended to leave room for debate and discussion. Nevertheless, as the policies make their way to the 113th Congress, the immigration community remains hopeful that this is the beginning of the much needed reform of the U.S. immigration system.