05.21.13

Undocumented Workers Will Face A Hard-Earned Path To Citizenship

From The Senate Judiciary Committee Majority Staff
S. 744: The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act
Undocumented Workers Will Face a Hard-Earned Path to Citizenship

An estimated 11 million undocumented individuals are living and working in America. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that deporting millions of undocumented workers is unachievable.  The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act outlines a hard-earned path to citizenship for undocumented individuals.

The comprehensive immigration reform bill requires a long, hard-earned path to citizenship.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act does not provide amnesty for an estimated 11 million undocumented workers.  Rather, it provides a long, difficult, and earned path to legalization that imposes penalties, requires payment of back-taxes, and sends undocumented immigrants to the back of the line.

Under the provisions of S.744, applicants for citizenship face a long and difficult road to citizenship.  Applicants must:

  • Pass criminal background checks;
  • Satisfy a work requirement;
  • Pay fines and back-taxes, under a requirement that is tougher than the 2006/2007 bipartisan immigration proposal, which only required workers to pay back taxes when obtaining a green card;
  • Learn civics and English;
  • Move to the back of the line, waiting for triggers amounting to at least 10 years, to allow for those who have initiated the citizenship process and are still waiting for approval to move forward first.

An amendment offered during Tuesday’s markup would eliminate any path
to citizenship for undocumented individuals.

During Tuesday’s markup, an amendment (Cruz3) offered would eliminate any path to citizenship for any individual who has ever been willfully present in the United States while not in lawful status, with the exception of asylum seekers.

  • The nation’s food and agricultural systems depend on immigrant workers to harvest fields, tend ranches, and work farms.  There are roughly 4.5 million farmworkers and family members in the United States.  An estimated 50 percent to 75 percent of these farmworkers are undocumented. [Farmworker Justice, 2/1/13]
  • The cost of attempting to identify, detain, and deport every unauthorized immigrant in the country could reach over $230 billion. The $41 billion per year it would cost is more than the annual discretionary budget for the entire department of Homeland Security. [CAP, 7/26/05; CRS, 10/1/12].
  • The Internal Revenue Service estimates that undocumented immigrants paid almost $50 billion in federal taxes between 1996 and 2003. However, about 40% of undocumented immigrants currently work off the books and consequently pay lower taxes. Getting these undocumented workers on the books will increase both the taxes paid by these workers and the taxes paid by their employers. [White House, 5/11]

 Conservatives and Democrats alike have said that a path to citizenship is necessary to comprehensive reform.

Providing a path to legalization is consistent with the morals and basic values of fairness on which the nation was founded.

·         “There’s no way of getting this job done without giving people a path to citizenship…Legal status is not something that someone should have to remain in unless they want to.  And to say that you can have legal status, but you can’t have ever a path to become a citizen of this country…offends fundamental principles of fairness in our society.” – Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) [The Washington Post, April 25, 2013] ·         “[H]opefully we can agree on one thing; fixing our immigration system will contribute to the greater good of our country by…providing legal status and a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants already here so they may openly contribute to our society; keeping families together; providing immigrant children who came here following the will of their parents a stable home and their own opportunity at the American dream.” – Former Denver Mayor Bill Vidal (D) [Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, April 22, 2013] ·         “Law and justice or mercy and compassion? And the answer is yes, there is balance in the tension between the two.  We ought to be guided in all that we do by a relentless commitment to protect the inherent value and the dignity of human life and to alleviate human suffering whenever and wherever we can. … So we need a legal system and public policies that are certainly just, but that are also humane.– Dr. David Fleming, Pastor, Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston Texas [Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, April 22, 2013]

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