Bennet, Immigration Bill with Path to Citizenship...
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Posted by: Selina Sandoval
U.S. SENATOR MICHAEL
Member: Agriculture, HELP,
and Finance Committees
Bennet, Group of 8 Introduce Immigration Bill with
Path to Citizenship, Improved Visa System
Bipartisan group’s plan reduces backlog for legal
immigrants, makes fixes to help families, businesses, workers
Washington, DC – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today joined
Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick
Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
today to introduce a bill to fix our broken immigration system.
The Border Security, Economic
Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 includes a path to citizenship
for the 11 million people living in the country without documentation.
It increases the number of visas available for workers specializing in
high tech industries, eliminates the unworkable H2A system for agriculture
workers, replacing it with a new streamlined system. It creates a guest
worker program agreed to by labor and business for lesser-skilled workers to
come into the country to meet labor demands in industries such as tourism and
"Two bedrock values that make
America unique are that we are a nation of laws, and we are a nation of
immigrants. This bill embodies these two American values,” Bennet
said. "It will provide a path to citizenship for families who came to
this country for a better life but have been forced to live and work in the
shadows of our society. Kids who know only this country as home and have
worked hard will no longer have their potential stifled. Instead they’ll have
opportunity to go to college, get a job, become a citizen and contribute to America.
And businesses struggling to find workers from farmers to aerospace companies
to hotels and ski resorts will have a visa system that makes sense and provides
The bill would provide people
living in the country without documentation the opportunity to apply for legal
status call Registered Provisional Immigrant Status (RPI). To receive
RPI, they must have been in the country before December 31, 2011 and be in good
standing with the law. Under RPI status immigrants must pay a fine, pay
taxes, be regularly employed and maintain a regular presence in the United
States. RPI status becomes available to immigrants six months after the
Secretary of Homeland Security has submitted a comprehensive Southern Border
Security Strategy and the Southern Border Fencing Strategy to the Congress. The
bill provides $3 billion to implement the border strategy and $1.5 billion to
implement the fencing strategy.
After 10 years, people in RPI
status may adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident Status if they remain in good
standing and certain border security triggers are met. People brought to this
country when they were children, known as DREAMers, as well as agriculture
workers have an accelerated path to citizenship. They can get their green cards
in 5 years and DREAMers will be eligible for citizenship immediately after they
get their green cards.
The bill also puts measures
in place to eliminate the backlog for family and employment-based immigrants
and expands the current V visa to allow individuals with an approved family
petition to live in the U.S. and allow certain other family members to visit
the U.S. for up to 60 days per year. It creates a merit visa which awards
points to individuals based on equities that contribute to our national interest
such as education, employment, length of residence in the US and other
To help strengthen our
economy this bill increases the number of H-1B visas for high skilled
jobs. It also includes a new INVEST visa, which Bennet included in the
bill. Immigrant entrepreneurs who seek to start new businesses and create
jobs in the United States would qualify for this new visa. Specifically,
it would create a new, three-year visa for individuals who are able to meet
certain revenue, job creation and initial investment requirements.
The bill also establishes a
new nonimmigrant W classification for lesser-skilled foreign workers performing
services or labor for a registered employer in a registered position.
This W classification is particularly important for the tourism and restaurant
industry in the state, which is Colorado’s second largest industry. In fact,
the ski industry alone generates $3 billion per year.
Bennet worked with Rubio and
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who are not members of
the group of 8, on a section of the bill that eliminates the unworkable H-2A
visa system for employers seeking to fill severe labor shortages with
agriculture workers from abroad. It replaces it with a new streamlined guest
worker program that will be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture is a major economic engine in our nation economy and contributes
$40 billion to Colorado’s economy. But farmers and ranchers are watching
their crops rot in the fields and on the vines because they can’t get the
workers they need. The new streamlined system will help farmers and
ranchers get the workers they need, allow current undocumented farm workers to
obtain legal status through an Agricultural Card Program and includes important
The bill also draws on
programs in Greeley, Colorado and Littleton, Colorado to create an Office of
New Americans to help immigrants learn English, American civics and integrate
into local communities.
For a summary of the bill, click
here. To read the bill, click
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