For Immediate Release
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Hagel Introduces Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), along with U.S. Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), today introduced “The Immigration Reform Act of 2004: Strengthening America’s National Security, Economy, and Families.” The bill will provide comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration laws that will strengthen national security, improve economic stability, and reunite families.
“Immigration reform is an urgent national security priority. We cannot continue to defer making tough choices about our nation’s immigration policy. It is not in our security interest to have 8-10 million people undocumented and unaccounted for in our country. Congress must reform the patchwork of immigration laws that have created an underground, black market labor force.
“The legislation we introduce today is responsible immigration reform. This is a debate that we have deferred for too long. President Bush deserves credit for the leadership he has shown in putting this issue back on the agenda. Congress must now meet that leadership by having a courageous debate on the tough issues of immigration reform,” Hagel said.
THE HAGEL-DASCHLE BILL:
• Strengthens national security by identifying undocumented immigrants living inside our borders and tracking foreign workers who enter the U.S. for jobs;
• Provides funding to the Department of Homeland Security for increased border security, and criminal and background checks on visa applicants;
• Increases the number of visas available for those who have played by the rules and are waiting to be reunited with their U.S. citizen and legal resident family members;
• Improves economic stability by creating an enforceable program to bring needed foreign workers into the U.S. to take jobs that would otherwise go unfilled;
• Penalizes those who continue to break immigration laws.
The Immigration Reform Act of 2004 Strengthening America’s National Security, Economy, and Families Sponsored by Senators Chuck Hagel and Tom Daschle
Our bill is comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform. It will:
• Strengthen National Security by identifying undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., tracking foreign workers entering our borders, and increasing funds for border security;
• Fix the Current System for immigrants who follow the law by reducing visa processing backlogs, reunifying families, and remedying current inequities under the law; and
• Improve Economic Stability by establishing an enforceable program to bring needed foreign workers into the U.S. for jobs that would otherwise go unfilled.
National Security: To track and identify immigrants living within and entering U.S. borders for work, the bill would require immigrants to undergo criminal and national security background checks prior to authorization. Participants in the bill’s worker programs would be required to maintain counterfeit-resistant authorization cards issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Finally, individuals who continue to break immigration laws would be barred from these programs. Fees associated with the bill would be designated for border security.
Fixing the Current System: The legislation would reduce the existing backlog of applications for family-sponsored visas to ensure that immigrants will be allowed to re-unite with their U.S. citizen and legal resident family members. The bill provides designated funding to implement these changes.
Economic Stability: To provide foreign workers for jobs that would otherwise go unfilled, the bill would admit a limited number of workers through a Willing Worker Program. Employers seeking to hire a foreign worker must first demonstrate that no qualified U.S. worker exists and that they will provide the same wage levels and working conditions as U.S. workers. Workers will be admitted for a limited period of time and will be allowed to change employers. Visa renewals would be available on a conditional basis. Qualified workers and their families would be provided an opportunity to adjust their immigration status.
Opportunity to Become a Stakeholder: Finally, the legislation would provide an opportunity for undocumented workers and families currently living in the U.S. to become invested stakeholders in the country if they can demonstrate that they have met all of the following requirements:
• Passed national security and criminal background checks;
• Resided in the U.S. for at least 5 years preceding the date of introduction;
• Worked a minimum of 4 years in the U.S., (one of which must occur post-enactment);
• Paid all federal taxes;
• Demonstrated knowledge of English language and American civics requirements; and
• Paid a $1,000 fine, in addition to required application fees.
Individuals who qualify for this program will submit an application to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Upon approval, DHS may adjust the immigration status of qualified applicants.