Immigrants Rights Activists Not Pleased with new proposed legislation

05/17/07 Mitch E.Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

A bipartisan group of senators reached a delicate compromise today on what could be the biggest overhaul of immigration law in more than 40 years. The measure, which has the backing of the Bush administration, offers the nation's 12 million undocumented workers a route to legal status but would also bolster border patrols and enhanced enforcement of rules for hiring aliens.

In addition, the agreement shifts immigration preferences away from the extended families of citizens toward more skilled and educated workers

Senators hope to bring the bill to the floor for debate and a vote next week before they leave for the Memorial Day holiday.

Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy was the top Democrat in on the negotiations.  He acknowledges the bill is far from perfect (roll tape# 1 o.q.”right away”)

Under the deal, undocumented workers who crossed into the country before January 1st would be offered a temporary-residency permit while they await a new "Z Visa" that would allow them to live and work lawfully in the U.S.

The head of an illegal-immigrant household would have eight years to return to his or her home country to apply for permanent legal residence for members of the household, but each Z Visa itself would be renewable indefinitely, as long as the holder passes a criminal background check, remains fully employed and pays a $5,000 fine, plus a paperwork-processing fee.

A separate, temporary-worker program would be established for 400,000 migrants a year. Each temporary work visa would be good for two years and could be renewed up to three times, as long as the worker leaves the country for a year between renewals.

California Democrat Dianne Feinstein says the measure includes security triggers that must be met before the estimated 12 (m) million illegal immigrants can take the first step towards becoming legal. (roll tape#2 o.q.”of the undocumented begin”)

Among those security triggers include 18,000 new Border Patrol agents, 370 miles of additional border fencing and an effective, electronic employee-verification system for the workplace.

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham says the reforms will attract some of the best educated people in the world to the United States..and he thinks it should pass easily in the Senate (roll tape#3 o.q.”overwhelming”)


Not so fast, says New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez.  He said, “When they say we have a deal, I certainly don’t feel that way”.

The plan would create a temporary worker program to bring new arrivals to the U.S and a separate program to cover agricultural workers. Skills and education level would for the first time be weighted more heavily than family connections in deciding whether immigrants should get permanent legal status. New high-tech employment verification measures would make sure that workers are here legallyArizona Senator John Kyl, a conservative on immigration issues, says illegal immigrants in the United States, after applying for a legal visa, will have to return to their home country in order to be approved as a permanent resident. (roll tape#4 o.q.”to get that green card”)Family connections alone would no longer be enough to qualify for a green card - except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens. That’s a radical break from existing U.S. law, and some immigration groups are already speaking against it.Maria Rodriguez is with the Florida Immigrant Coalition based in Miami.  (roll tape#1 o.q.”it fails us”)

President Bush said he was delighted that the Senate has struck a deal.  The bill will be debated next week in the Senate.

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