The United States has provided countless nationalities a refuge to pursue a better life by regularly granting asylum or permitting various immigrants the opportunity to become American citizens. This country is a nation of former immigrants who ancestors once came to our great country to provide more opportunities for their children or to escape persecution and danger. However, our current immigration system is in serious need of repair. The average citizenship application processing time for high skilled immigrants such as engineers or scientists can exceed 10 years, yet a growing number of undocumented workers either illegally cross our southern border or overstay temporary work visas every day.
In past Congress’, efforts to fix our immigration system have failed to represent both sides, the need for improved border security and more efficient legal immigration processing. Some proposals centered on instant citizenship while ignoring real border security improvements. Other proposals offered a gradual path to citizenship while failing to collect back taxes undocumented workers owe to repay their utilization of government services. Recently, the Senate passed a package which attempts to address all these concerns in one sweep, S. 744.
S. 744 would create a pathway to American citizenship for qualifying undocumented workers, provided a list of prerequisites are met first. To be eligible, certain immigrants would have to pass a background check. If the individual ever was convicted of a felony or more than three misdemeanors, they would be denied. They would have to prove they were living in the U.S. since before December 31, 2011. If they are able to prove this, they would have to pay their applicable taxes and a $1,000 fine. Immigrants who satisfy all these conditions may stay and work legally in the U.S. for up to six years, after which they may apply to renew their temporary work status while their citizenship application is reviewed.
In exchange for this path to citizenship for those who qualify, S. 744 would require that our border be secured. No undocumented worker would be allowed to even apply for temporary work status until the Southern Border Security Strategy was operational. This multi-faceted strategy requires 700 miles of fencing to be built, implementation of a mandatory employment verification system for all employers, and at least 38,405 full-time Border Patrol agents deployed along the border. If all these security improvements are realized, an eligible immigrant enrolled in temporary worker status would have to wait at least ten years before they are able to apply for a green card and then, eventually, for U.S. citizenship.
As it stands, the House will not take up S. 744, but instead plans to consider smaller portions of immigration reform in a gradual process designed to avoid mistakes and maximize the chance we get it right. I will only consider supporting legislation which first provides Americans with strong increased homeland security at our borders and does not allow undocumented workers to jump ahead of legal immigrants.