The Senate Bill And The Undocumented - Estimates Of How Many People Might Qualify
Editor's Note: The information in this article was accurate at the time of writing. Further amendments have been voted on since May 17, 2006.
As the debate proceeds on the Senate debate, questions have been raised as to how many undocumented immigrants would eventually be legalized by the Senate bill (the "Hagel-Martinez" compromise).
The answer is that the ultimate number will depend on what amendments are incorporated into the bill as it moves forward. As it stands now, the compromise needs improvement.
Barriers to Successful Implementation Contained in the Bill
There are a number of enforcement provisions in the bill that would, if not corrected, lead to unintended consequences when it comes time to implement the legalization provisions of the bill. Without amendment, these provisions will disqualify millions of undocumented immigrants from participation in the program. There are indications that the bi-partisan coalition of Senators who support comprehensive immigration reform are amenable to fix at least some of these flaws, so that the legalization provisions can be successfully implemented.
Barriers to participation for those here between 2 and 5 years:
Undocumented immigrants arriving after January 7, 2004, not included in legalization program:
Amendments That May Chip Away at Legalization
Exclusion of those ordered removed:
Estimates, Assuming the Coalition Holds
To review, the Hagel-Martinez compromise treats the undocumented in the following way: " Those who have been here for five years or more would be offered a direct and multi-step process to permanent residence. " Persons who had been in the U.S. prior to January 7, 2004, but less than five years, would have to briefly leave the U.S. (but will not necessarily have to return to their home country), but will be able to come back in immediately and get on track for permanent residence, obtainable within eight years. All paperwork will be done within the U.S., not in consulates abroad. " Those here since January 7, 2004, would not be eligible for legalization. On the other hand, they would not be barred from the programs to legalize the future flow of immigrants, including the temporary worker program and increased family and employment visas. Bars to re-entry would be waived for this group.
Estimates of those who might be excluded:
The collection of provisions that apply to those who have been here longer than two years but less than five years might depress participation by making the ultimate reward of legalization just too uncertain. The lack of confidentiality and requirement to give up all right of appeal may be a deterrent to stepping forward. The brief application period will increase the likelihood that many will miss the deadline. We are pushing to have some or all of these problems fixed. If not all corrected, we believe that one-quarter to one-third of the 2.8 million undocumented immigrants in this category would not step forward-or about 700,000 - 900,000.
An undocumented immigrant who has an outstanding order of deportation is prohibited from participating in the program (though there are waivers that will be available for some). That will exclude perhaps another 350,000 to 500,000 depending on how the waivers are implemented.
Grand total, given the current scenario
For a grand total of, very roughly, 8 million or 8.5 million who would qualify for legalization and be put on a path to citizenship. As with any estimate of how an uncertain number of undocumented immigrants may act in the future and how an evolving policy proposal might affect them, this is a guess. However, as things stand right now, given a supportive reform coalition of Senators it is not an unreasonable guess.
Will the Coalition Hold? First Results In
The above discussion of course depends on the coalition of Democratic and Republican senators holding together to gain some improvements in the bill, and defeating the amendments being offered by hard-liners intent on undermining comprehensive reform. If the coalition doesn't hold, and comprehensive reform is no longer viable, we would recommend opposition to the bill. At this moment, with support strong in the Senate for comprehensive immigration reform and with supporters of reform seeming to be poised to block hard-line amendments, we do not feel that it makes sense to call it quits while the game is just getting under way. The strategy, after all, is to defeat the House bill, a strategy that, in our view, becomes more difficult without a Senate bill that is as close to the Kennedy/McCain bill as it can be.
Early indications from the floor debate are promising. The first vote was on an amendment by Senator Isakson of Georgia (R). That amendment would have suspended implementation of the legalization program and temporary worker program (and increases in permanent legal immigration) until DHS certified that the enforcement provisions of the bill were fully funded and implemented. This "enforcement first" approach is very similar to what many of the hard-liners in the House want to see. The amendment failed by a vote of 55 to 40. Eighteen Republicans joined Democrats to kill the amendment.
Reformers in the Senate were given a major boost when the President addressed the nation during prime time on the subject of immigration reform. He said that he believes that the undocumented should be provided with an opportunity to eventually become citizens, and his formulation is very similar to the bill being debated now on the Senate floor.
It will take more than symbolic acts from the President to move comprehensive reform over the goal line. The President will have to remain engaged throughout the debate as it plays out on the Senate floor and in the House/Senate conference committee. In the mean time, he has given a green light to reformers in the Senate, and early indications are that the coalition is holding together.
Editor's Note: The following information about additional amendments is provided courtesy of Gregory Siskind, Esq. and is current as of 3pm, 5/19/06.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
KENNEDY AMENDMENT PASSES 56 to 43
SESSIONS FENCE AMENDMENT PASSES 83-16
VITTER ANTI-IMMIGRANT AMENDMENT FAILS
KERRY BORDER PATROL AMENDMENT PASSES
KYL AMENDMENT PASSES 99-0
SESSIONS FENCING AMENDMENT NOW UP
CORNYN-KYL AMENDMENT NOW BEING DEBATED
25,000 H-1Bs REMAIN FOR 2007 FISCAL YEAR
Maurice Belanger is the Director of Public Information at the National Immigration Forum. The National Immigration Forum is one of the leading immigrant advocacy policy groups in the nation.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.