The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomes the introduction of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011 (CIR Act of 2011) by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Patty Murray (D-WA). The bill is the first major immigration bill introduced in the 112th Congress. It includes fixes to the business and family visa systems and a required registration and legalization plan for the millions of undocumented living and working in the U.S. along with tough enforcement provisions such as increased border security, a mandatory employment verification system and stiffer penalties on illegal immigration.
"At a time when many are proposing nothing but enforcement, this bill helps bring our national debate on immigration back on track with a more balanced, workable plan," said Eleanor Pelta, President of AILA. "By combining enforcement with broad legalization and other key fixes, the CIR Act of 2011 addresses the most important concerns in our immigration system raised by relevant stakeholders. The bill sets stringent benchmark "triggers" that must be met before anyone can get a green card under the proposed legalization plan. It includes major increases in border patrol officers, worksite enforcement investigators, security measures on the borders, and surveillance technology, and raises the penalties for illegal entry. Finally, it also includes the DREAM Act, AgJobs, and other proposals that have drawn support from both sides of the aisle.
"Reform must be premised on making the immigration system actually work for America. The proposals for mandatory employment verification without any legalization plan for the millions of undocumented workers will do great harm to American businesses, workers and our economic recovery," said Pelta. "In the same way, extravagant spending on border patrol, fencing, and jails for detention will not address the glaring gap in adequate channels for people to come legally to the United States." AILA's framework includes a fair and effective program that secures our borders and the interior and creates a process to legalize current undocumented immigrants who meet strict eligibility requirements.
"The need for Congress to enact real immigration reform could not be any more urgent. Immigration reform would aid our economy and provide fairness to taxpayers, job creators, and families that now get hopelessly entangled in the dysfunctional system," said Pelta.
Along with five cosponsors, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011 (S.1258). The legislation, which would offer a comprehensive solution to fix our broken immigration system and foster economic recovery, is the first bill of its kind in the 112th Congress. Below is a statement from Tyler Moran, policy director of the National Immigration Law Center:
“By incorporating proposals championed by Republicans and Democrats alike, Sen. Menendez and his colleagues today have laid out a plan to effectively fix our broken immigration system without stalling our economy or ripping our communities apart. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act not only would fix a system that has for too long been out of whack with America’s economic and societal needs, but it recognizes that, in the absence of a legal workforce, forcing employers to verify the employment authorization of their workers by using E-Verify would undermine our economy and cause the loss of hundreds of thousands of American jobs.
“Their effort stands in stark contrast with the mass-deportation and anti-worker agenda espoused by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and his colleagues, who seem willing to risk our economic recovery and drive unemployment rates to unprecedented levels to score politics points. We hope colleagues will join Sen. Menendez, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to support this workable solution to fix a system that has for too long been held hostage to partisan politics.”
Despite a weak attempt at border security and interior enforcement, the underlying effect of this legislation is an amnesty and overall legal immigration increase on a massive scale. Among numerous provisions, this bill would: preempt all state and local immigration or employment verification laws; provide green cards for refugees and asylum seekers; make green cards immediately available to foreign students with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math from a U.S. institution who have offers of employment in the United States; create a new guest worker program for unskilled workers; attempt to “recapture” unused visas (However, visas not allocated in a certain category in any given year are made available for other categories, so there really is no such thing as an "unused" visa); classifies spouses and children of LPRs as immediate relatives; includes the DREAM Act, AgJOBS, and Liberian amnesty schemes; makes the R-1 Religious Worker Visa Program permanent; and makes the Conrad 30 J-1 Visa Program permanent. Finally, this legislation would grant a large and unlimited amnesty for illegal aliens after meeting minimal criteria such as paying taxes, background check, and basic citizenship skills.