Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Economist.com | Lexington
Excellent "Lexington" column in the May 19th The Economist magazine favorably reviewing the Kennedy/McCain bill and lamenting the fixation on "cultural wars" in Washington (filibusters, conservative, "faith based," Schivo, and on and on, etc.) It notes the tough fight ahead of the bill but observes that it has much in its favor. You may need to have subscribed to Economist online to read the full article, but its bottom line message, and I quote from the article:
"The reformers' most important ally, though, is common sense. America has spent millions of dollars trying to tighten up its borders only to see the situation get worse. It now relies on illegal workers to pick its vegetables and build its buildings. Closing the border is impossible without some sort of legalisation for the millions in the country; mass deportation would do irreparable harm both to America's economy and to its traditions as an immigrant-friendly nation."
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Guest Worker Program? Amnesty? Either Way a Very Positive Bill
The bill was simultaneously introduced in the Senate by Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and McCain (R-AZ) and in the House by Representatives Kolbe (R-AZ), Flake (R-AZ) and Gutierrez (D-IL). It is truly a generous effort to provide a path to legal status for unskilled workers who wish to enter the U.S. to take jobs that U.S. workers do not fill and also for undocumented workers currently in the U.S. It is so generous that it is not certain how much of this will survive to the point of passage by the Congress. However, President Bush has already indicated that this bill is consistent with his vision of of effective reform of the current unworkable system.
The Secure America Act establishes a new visa (H-5A) that will allow foreign workers to enter the U.S. and fill available jobs that require few or no skills. Applicants must show that they have a job waiting in the U.S. The employers that want to hire them must show attempts to recruit U.S. workers. There is an initial cap of 400,000 visas annually, but the annual limit can be adjusted up or down depending on demand. The H-5A visa is valid for three years but can be renewed for an additional three years. The visa is portable, but if the person loses his job he must find a new one within 60 days. Also, an employer can sponsor an H-5A worker for a green card or the worker can adjust status on their own after working for four years in H-5A status.
The Act also establishes the H-5B visa for undocumented workers in the U.S on the date that the bill was introduced (May 11th). Such workers can register for an H-5B valid for six years. Applicants have to show a work history, no criminal record and pass a security check. A number of grounds of inadmissibility are waived (except for criminal and terrorist grounds.) They get work and travel authorization. They (and dependents) also get interim work authorization while the application is pending. The undocumented worker also cannot be deported pending a final denial of the application for the H-5B.
In order to obtain an H-5B the worker has to show he has been working in the U.S. from a date before the introduction of the Act to the point of application. This can be proven by a wide range of documentation, from government sources, the employer as well as sworn affidavits from nonrelatives of the alien. The employment requirement does not apply to people under 21 years of age. Also, the employment requrement can be met by attendance at a college or secondary school. The worker will also have to pay filing fees and a fine of $1000, if over 21 years of age.
A worker who is present in the U.S. and has been ordered deported may still apply for an H-5B and the application apparently acts as an automatic stay of the deportation/removal order. The worker does not have to file a motion to reopen or reconsider the removal order in order to be eligible to apply for the H-5B.
Also, they are eligible to apply for permanent residency so long as they have been employed in the U.S. during the required period or met the education requirements, and have proven that all income taxes owed have been paid or that final arrangements to pay them have been made.
To apply for permanent residency, an H-5B (or H-5A) holder will need to show that he/she has an understanding of English and knowledge of the history and government of the United States. Apparently, if the H-5B holder meets this requirement for permanent residency purposes, he will have satisfied the similar naturalization requirement for the purposes of a later application for U.S. citizenship.
If this Act passes intact (how likely is that? Not very,) we would see a dramatic change in the approach this country has taken over the past decade and would be the most "immigrant friendly" legislation seen since the Immigration Reform Act of 1986.