The push for immigration reform is continuing, slowly but surely. Or at least more surely than usual. This past week, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators released a draft bill for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Now, that’s a behemoth of a bill, well over 800 pages long. There are some useful summaries and analyses, as well. The Washington Post’s Key Provisions page gives a good concise synopsis. While those looking for a more detailed analysis can turn to this Section-by-Section summary offered by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Yeah, but what will it do? I’m so glad you asked. For those currently in the U.S. but without legal status, the bill will authorize a path to citizenship – and this will be tied to tighter security on the U.S. borders. Additionally, the new law would add additional H-1B “high skilled” worker visas and a new guest-worker visa program. The bill also proposes a number of changes to the current family-based immigration visa program. For example, it removes the limit on spouses, children, and parents of permanent legal residents who can enter the United States. It also ends visas for foreign-born siblings and children of citizens who are older and married. Finally, a new merit-based system of “points” will be instituted to replace what the current, oft-criticized “visa diversity lottery” (a system that randomly approves visas for potential immigrants from countries with fewer immigrants to the United States).
In all, it seems the bill represents a good start in addressing some of the serious concerns about the immigration system. It is not perfect, of course. And the bill is still far from being enacted as law, which will no doubt help both those favoring reform and those leery of it to take heart. There will still be considerable opportunity for amending the bill in the Senate. And The Hill reports that it is likely that whatever happens in the Senate, the House of Representatives will move the bill in a much more conservative direction.
As this process heats up, many voices are emphasizing that a just immigration system is a moral imperative. Among them are Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, and Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles gave a conference call underscoring that immigration reform doesn’t come from partisan activism, but from “an essential element of Catholic doctrine.” Cue Dolan:
We’ve been dallying on [immigration reform] for way too long, and now just seems to be a providential time – we can’t, we can’t wait any longer to reform a system that’s broken, unjust and unfair. Right now, it dawns on us that thousands of people are being deported and an untold number of families are being divided.
These are human beings made in God’s image and likeness and redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus,” Dolan said, “and we moral leaders cannot just stand by and let that happen.
And, to take a step away from politics toward one individual’s experience, you will want to check out this recent story from the New Yorker, about a U.S. citizen who got caught up and deported, illegally, and his struggle to return home.