ImmigrationBipartisan House immigration overhaul bill offers three paths to legal status

Published 4 April 2013

While a bipartisan Senate group – the Group of Eight – is set to unveil its immigration overhaul proposal next week when Congress returns from a break, a bipartisan group of House members has come up with its own immigration reform draft. The House members’ proposal divides illegal immigrants into three categories – “Dreamers” and agricultural workers; those with families and jobs in the United States; and those who do not belong in either of the two other categories – and offers immigrants in each category a distinct path to citizenship.

While a bipartisan Senate group – the Group of Eight – is set to unveil its immigration overhaul proposal next week when Congress returns from a break, a  bipartisan group of  House members has come up with its own immigration reform draft.

The New York Times reports that unlike the Senate bill, which provides one distinct path to citizenship, the House legislation will most likely offer three paths to legal status for the eleven million immigrants currently in the United States.

The House bill appears to  offer both political parties something they can support. Republicans did not want immigrants to be granted  a special path to citizenship, while Democrats wanted a plan which would provide the option for citizenship at some point.

The House group is hoping to unveil its bill before the Senate group officially releases its bill. Some members of the Senate group said they will unveil their bill next week, but members of the House group are not so sure.

“If they do, I will be shocked,” a member of the House group told the Times. “If they do, I will buy them all dinner.”

Young immigrants in the United States without legal papers, known as “Dreamers,” and low-skilled agricultural workers would qualify for an accelerated road to legal status, according to people familiar with the House bill’s framework. House aides say that Dreamers should not be punished because they were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, and House members who are currently drafting the bill say that agricultural workers are a crucial part of the economy.

Representative Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said in an op-ed article in the Los Angeles Times last week that “those who entered the U.S. as children, through no fault of their own, will be allowed to have a pathway to citizenship.”

Immigrants who either have a family or employment which would allow them to apply for legal status, except that they are in the country illegally, will be the second group with  a path to legal permanent residence. Many immigrants in this situation would have to return home for either three or ten years before being eligible to re-apply, but the House bill is likely to relax or waive that provision.

Immigrants in this second group would still have to return home for some period of time in order to apply for legal status, in addition to paying fines, back taxes, and learning English.

The immigrants who do not qualify for the first two categories would need to apply for “provisional legal status” if they admitted to committed any crimes, pay any fines or back taxes they owe, and learn English. The provisional status would allow immigrants to live and work in, and travel into, the United States. After ten years they would be able to apply for a green card, then for citizenship five years after that.

The House group is still deciding on whether to give immigrants benefits while they are under provisional status, but a Republican with information on the situation told the Times that the group will not give any government subsidized benefits to immigrants.

The House group is also undecided on the issue of guest worker program. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation’s largest federation of unions, have reached an agreement that the Senate group is adopting, but the House group is still looking at that agreement.