06.22.11

Leahy Joins Democratic Leaders, Others To Reintroduce Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, June 22, 2011) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), joined with Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to reintroduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill aimed at addressing the broken immigration system with tough, smart, and fair measures.

The bill includes measures to strengthen border security, enhance worksite enforcement of immigration laws, and requirements that the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants present in the U.S. register with the government, pay their taxes, learn English, pay a fine, pass a background check, and wait in line for permanent residence.

“Effective reform of our immigration system will only come about as the result of a good-faith bipartisan effort, and this legislation is a very strong starting point for that process,” said Leahy.  “But one thing we should all support is a civil debate about how best to update our immigration laws to curb the tide of illegal immigration, continue to strengthen our borders, and create a system that works best for America.”

“This legislation signals to the American people that we are serious about fixing our broken immigration system,” said Menendez. “We stand for a complete solution - a real solution - to end undocumented immigration and restore the rule of law. This is common-sense legislation that addresses the realities of the situation, stops the flow across our borders, and contributes to our economic recovery. If we can put political grandstanding aside and come together on a comprehensive, pragmatic bill like this one, we can bring resolution to a great national need.”

“Today we are living with a broken immigration system that weakens our national security, hurts our workers, and falls short of the most basic standard of justice,” Durbin said. “To fix this system, we need a comprehensive approach that is tough, fair, and practical. Senator Menendez has drafted a good bill and I’m proud to support it.”

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011 includes several key priorities for Leahy, including the long-pending “AgJOBS” proposal, including an explicit designation of the dairy industry as eligible for H-2A visas; a permanent extension of the EB-5 Regional Center Program, a longtime priority of Leahy; the DREAM Act; the Leahy-authored Uniting American Families Act; and sections of the Refugee Protection Act, which Leahy introduced earlier this month.

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011 includes both a mandatory employment verification system and a program to require undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as of June 1, 2011, to register with the government, learn English, and pay fines and taxes on their way to becoming Americans.

The bill promotes effective and accountable enforcement within the U.S. through measures such as: additional resources for the Border Patrol; expanded penalties for passport and document fraud; new requirements for the Department of Homeland Security to track entries and exits at the border; common-sense rules governing detention to ensure U.S. citizens are not unlawfully detained; and new criminal penalties for fraud and misuse of Social Security numbers.

A Standing Commission on Immigration, Labor Markets, and the National interest would be created as part of the bill to evaluate labor market and economic conditions and recommend quotas for employment-based visa programs to the Congress that would protect American jobs.

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