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Posted: March 20, 2022
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Immigrants in Colorado and across the country have endured years of fear, uncertainty, and pain as a result of our broken immigration system. Now it’s time for bold change –– and Congress knows it. CIRC is a member of the national Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) which works to push for fair and humane immigration policy and legislation at the national level. CIRC’s member led federal steering commitee also meets frequently to organize and take action to push for national immigration reform in Colorado.
Here are some of the national immigration reform bills that have been introduced since 2021:
- Build Back Better
- The US Citizenship Act
- The Dream and Promise Act
- The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act
- The Farmworker Modernization Act
The Build Back Better bill currently in the Senate contains immigration provisions that would create a system called “parole in place”. This would provide temporary status to millions of people but would not create a pathway to citizenship.
For anyone in the U.S. since January 1, 2011, the bill would provide:
- Temporary status and a work permit for 5 years, renewable one time for another 5 years – 10 years total
- Protection from deportation for that period of time
- The ability to apply for advance parole to travel abroad; and
- Eligibility for some federal and state public benefits, including the ACA (Obamacare).
The proposal also:
- Prohibits a future administration from revoking this status
- Prohibits DHS from referring any applicant for this status to ICE or CBP based on information in their application.
The proposal would not create any new pathways to citizenship, but for some people, this status would make them eligible for green cards based on existing family relationships.
CIRC calls on our legislators to pass a full and complete pathway to citizenship, not a temporary half-measure.
The US Citizenship Act is based on President Biden’s immigration reform plan. It offers an eight year path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, and an accelerated path for essential workers and DACA and TPS recipients. It has several harmful measures, such as significant criminal carve-outs and increased funding for border surveillance. However, out of all the current national immigration bills, this bill would provide the most inclusive pathway to citizenship.
This bill would…
Create a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants
If the bill passes, any undocumented immigrant currently in the US who arrived before 1/1/21 could be eligible for this pathway to citizenship. This bill would allow immigrants to apply for temporary legal status, then apply for a green card five years later. Immigrant farm workers, as well as DACA and TPS holders, could apply for a green card immediately.
Strengthen labor protections for immigrants
The bill would protect workers who are victims of workplace retaliation from deportation. It would give workers who suffer serious labor violations and cooperate with worker protection agencies greater access to U visas. It also includes penalties for employers who violate labor laws.
Make some parts of our immigration system more efficient and more fair
The bill would get rid of the deadline for asylum claims, increase funding for asylum processing, clear backlogs and reduce wait times. The cap on U visas would also be raised to 30,000 visas. The bill would expand training for immigration judges, improve technology for immigration courts, remove the unfair “3 and 10 year bars” rule, and give judges more freedom to review cases and grant relief.
Protect against some injustice in the immigration system
The bill would prohibit discrimination based on religion or sexuality. It would also limit the power that presidents have to issue bans. In addition, it would institute reforms to address misconduct in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Provide support to immigrants currently in the US
The bill would expand family case management programs, fund school districts educating unaccompanied children, and re-institute the Central American Minor's Program to reunite children with US relatives. It would also create a Central American family reunification parole program to unite families with approved family sponsorship petitions.
Decrease the need for people to undergo dangerous travel to immigrate to the US
The bill aims to fund a $4 billion four year plan to reduce migration by increasing assistance to Central American countries. It would also set up centers throughout Central America to process displaced people for resettlement either to the US or elsewhere.
Increase harmful surveillance at the border and in the workplace
The bill would increase DHS funding and provide funding for a “smart wall” at the border, which would mean more surveillance in and around border communities. Because of systemic biases in our law enforcement, immigration enforcement, and criminal justice systems, over-surveillance leads to people of color being disproportionately targeted and jailed. The bill would also increase “employment verification,” which hurts workers and their families instead of the unethical employers who hire and exploit them. Increased surveillance and employment verification don’t make us safer, they just harm our communities and punish people excessively for small mistakes or for making the only choices available to them.
Continue and expand many criminal exclusions to legal resident status
Although the bill leaves the possibility for certain previous criminal exclusion rules to be lifted, it would maintain many of the rules barring people with certain criminal convictions from receiving legal status. It would also introduce some new rules shutting even more people out. Criminal bars like these are pointless and unfair. If a US citizen is convicted of a crime, they will serve their sentence or pay their fine, and then be done. But many noncitizens are punished twice: once by the criminal justice system, and then again by the immigration system blocking them from legal status or citizenship.
The Dream and Promise Act is a bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for DACA and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) recipients. It has already been passed by the House! Unfortunately, the house added several harsh “carve-outs” that would exclude thousands of people from the pathway to citizenship. Now, we’re calling on the senate to pass a clean version of the DREAM Act –– a version that doesn’t include the harmful criminal carve-outs that the House version has.
QUICK FACTS: The Dream and Promise Act would…
Provide conditional permanent resident status to some immigrants
If you are a DACA recipient, to be eligible, you must have:
- Come to the US before you were 18
- Lived full-time in the US since then
- Earned or be in the process of earning a high school diploma or an equivalent in the US
If you are a TPS holder, you must have:
- Lived full-time in the US for at least three years before the date the bill is signed into law.
- Demonstrated your eligibility for TPS on or before September 17, 2017
- If you are a DED recipient, you must have had DED as of January 20, 2021.
The bill would allow people who meet these criteria to apply for permanent resident status -- if they can pass a background check and pay an application fee.
Stop certain DACA recipients from accessing the pathway to citizenship
While this bill would grant conditional permanent resident status for some immigrants, individuals with past criminal records may be barred from a pathway to citizenship. For instance, immigrants who have engaged in sex work would be ineligible. Immigrants who have committed simple misdemeanors or many other trivial offenses would also be ineligible.
The bill states that the Department of Homeland Security could “provisionally deny [an] application if the alien poses a danger to public safety.” This phrase gives DHS the authority to deny applications based on the vague standard of “posing a danger.” As a result, it would block many immigrants from a fair chance at citizenship.
Lastly, people who receive the conditional resident status may lose their residency if they commit a serious crime. This is deeply unfair. Anyone convicted of a crime will already be punished by the criminal justice system. There is no reason that undocumented immigrants should be punished doubly by also losing their legal status.
Provide legal counsel to applicants seeking judicial review
The Dream and Promise Act would ensure that applicants whose cases are denied can seek judicial review and be represented by a lawyer. To fund court-appointed counsel for applicants, the Treasury will establish an “Immigration Counsel Account,” funded by the application fees and an additional $25 surcharge. Applicants who have proven that they would be exempt from paying application fees would not have to pay the surcharge either.
Cancel or pause deportation proceedings for DACA and TPS holders who are eligible
This bill would pause deportation proceedings for DACA recipients who meet requirements for conditional permanent resident status and prevent deportations of DACA recipients under the age of 18 if they meet all requirements except for being enrolled in high school or equivalent. Deportation proceedings for any TPS holders with DED who are eligible for legal permanent resident status would also be canceled under this bill.
Let TPS or DACA recipients who were deported or left the US apply from abroad
The Dream and Promise Act would allow eligible Dreamers deported under the Trump administration to apply for relief from abroad. The bill also allows TPS recipients who were deported or have voluntarily left the US on or after September 17, 2017 to apply for legal permanent residence if they meet certain requirements, including having lived in the US continuously for at least three years before their departure.
This bill would give undocumented essential workers the chance to become US citizens. As it passes through Congress, we must make sure it doesn’t include any unfair barriers blocking some essential workers from qualifying.
QUICK FACTS: The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act would…
Give non-citizen essential workers Legal Permanent Resident status
Under the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, any non-citizen worker in one of several kinds of service, domestic care, medical, and agricultural, and construction service industries could apply to immediately receive permanent resident status. Undocumented people who worked in these industries but lost their jobs or left due to COVID-19 would also qualify for this program. Finally, the family members of any undocumented essential worker who died from COVID-19 would also be able to apply for permanent resident status.
Get rid of the three- and ten-year bars for re-entry
The three- and ten-year bars came from the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immgrant Responsiblity Act. They ban undocumented individuals from returning to the US for either three or ten years if they voluntarily departed after being in the US for an extended period of time. The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act would get rid of those bars, which would help to keep families together and respect individual rights to freedom of movement.
The Farmworker Modernization Act (FMA) offers a difficult, limited pathway to citizenship for farmworkers. Other bills, like the U.S. Citizenship Act, offer farmworkers a better pathway to citizenship without violating their human and labor rights. Therefore, CIRC does not support the current form of the FMA. We will be working with our representatives to attempt to amend the harmful parts of this bill.
The Farmworker Modernization Act would…
Expand temporary worker programs, which hurt our communities
This act grows the H-2A guestworker program and creates another similar program. Temporary worker programs have a history of abusing the participants and exploiting their labor, so much that the American Friends Service Committee calls them “akin to Human Trafficking.” Although they contain labor protections, inspections are rare and ineffective. This is no surprise given the programs were built to provide companies with as cheap labor as possible.
Require E-verify, which punishes workers and their families instead of unethical employers
The FMA would require all agriculture businesses to use the E-verify system to check any current and future employee’s immigration status. Businesses would not be allowed to employ anyone found to be undocumented. Experts estimate this could force hundreds of thousands of workers to lose their jobs, punishing them and their families instead of the employers who exploit their labor.
Exclude past workers or anyone unable to work 8+ years in agriculture
The act’s pathway to citizenship requires immigrants to work a minimum of eight years in agriculture. (People who have already worked in agriculture for 10+ years will have to work for four more years, and everyone else will have to work for eight more years to qualify for a green card.) This means that anyone who gets sick or injured due to the physically demanding labor could be unfairly excluded from the pathway to citizenship.
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