Immigration reform bill gets approval from bipartisan group in House

Gang of Eight releases immigration plan but faces criticism from some staunch Republicans.

By Crystal Tsoi

WASHINGTON, DC: The 844-page comprehensive immigration reform bill from the Senate’s Gang of Eight which was released early Wednesday morning, postponed for a day from its initial Tuesday release due to the Boston Marathon tragedy, has already earned the support from a bipartisan group of Congressmen in the House.

“Americans want to see the nation’s broken immigration system fixed, and they know it will take bipartisanship to solve this problem in a sensible and rational way,” said a group of eight members of the house in a joint statement released right after the Senate’s immigration bill was put out.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 includes provisions to beef up border security through the allocation of $1.5 billion in funds to implement the “Southern Border Fencing Strategy.

Additionally, a pathway to citizenship is outlined for the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. The process includes an extensive procedure for individuals who satisfy the prerequisites to qualify for “Registered Provisional Immigrant Status.” Individuals foremost must have been in residence in the United States before December 31, 2011 among other requirements including a relatively untarnished criminal record.

A hypothetical path to citizenship without any potential derailment will take 13 years at least: 10 years as an RPI and 3 years as a permanent resident before applying for citizenship.

In addressing issues regarding the backlog of immigration petitions, the caps for various visas are increased to perhaps answer criticism from those who believe the lower visa cap currently are stymying growth in the tech industry.

Particularly for H-1B visas, those reserved for higher-skilled applicants, the base cap will be raised from 65,000 to 110,000 and can increase up to 180,000 in subsequent years but will not increase by more than 10,000 visa petitions each year.

For low-skilled workers, such as farm workers, the W-Visa program will establish a 75,000 visa petition cap starting 2015. The spouse and children of the individual worker will also be allowed to enter the country for the duration of the worker’s stay.

Despite seemingly widespread support for the immigration reform outlined in the bill, there are several conservative Republicans who have voiced their opposition to the renewed efforts at immigration reform, citing the proposals as too swift and untimely. Some have criticized the bill for not placing enough emphasis on border security.

Following the aftermath of the Boston Marathon tragedy, Representative Steve King (D-IA) hinted at the need for increased national security in the wake of the event, defending his skeptical position on immigration reform and the visa programs.

“We need to take a look at the visa-waiver program and wonder what we’re doing. If we can’t background-check people that are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we are going to background check the 11 to 20 million people that are here from who knows where,” King said in an interview with the National Review Online.

The bill will be debated on in the Senate in the following weeks.

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