Both branches of Congress continue to draft their respective proposals for comprehensive immigration reform. Concrete timeframes for when the plans will be finalized haven’t been set, but many believe a Senate plan is due within the week, as soon as Thursday or Friday.
A key aspect of the bill will be to beef up border surveillance and to significantly increase border enforcement at certain “high-risk” sectors, according to the New York Times.
The bill sets goals that include 100% surveillance of the U.S. border as well as 90% effectiveness of border enforcement in designated areas, as well as workplace and visa enforcement targets. The Times writes:
As drafted, the legislation would provide as much as $3.5 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to set up a five-year border security plan. Officials must present the plan within six months, and no immigrants can gain any provisional legal status until the plan is in place. It would include a program to finish any border fencing that border agents deem necessary.
The plan must also show how the authorities will move quickly to spread technology across the border to ensure that agents can have surveillance capability along its entire length. They will also have five years to reach 90% effectiveness in their operations, a measure based on calculations of what percentage of illegal crossers were caught or turned back without crossing.
A new electronic worker verification system would be mandatory within five years, and within 10 years all airports and seaports would have to have an electronic exit system in place to ensure foreigners leave when their visas expire.
Undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and other requirements would be granted provisional legal status, and after 10 years, would be able to apply for permanent residency. However, this is contingent on Department of Homeland Security officials proving that the new border plan is in place and that the electronic systems for employment verification and visa exit systems work.
“We are closer now than we have been in 25 years for serious immigration reform,” Senator Dick Durbin told reporters on Wednesday after he and fellow “Gang of Eight” senators briefed members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “This president is behind it, and there is a strong, growing bipartisan effort in the Senate to support it. We hope that the House will do the same.”
The meeting took place as tens of thousands of immigration reform supporters convened in front of Capitol Hill. Groups and delegates from advocacy organizations and labor unions around the country gathered in Washington, D.C. to show our elected officials that the public at large supports immigration policy that works for all Americans.
“We will make comprehensive immigration reform a reality this year,” Senator Bob Menendez told rally attendees on Wednesday.