The Immigration Bill Emerges

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For those with time to spare, the full bill is above. Dylan Matthews goes over the basics. What the pathway to citizenship looks like:

If you’re an undocumented immigrant who arrived in the United States before Dec. 31, 2011, haven’t committed a felony (or three misdemeanors), hold a job, and pay a $500 fine and back taxes, then you will immediately gain the status of “registered provisional,” allowing an individual to legally stay in the United States without risk of deportation. Registered provisionals wouldn’t be able to get any means-tested public benefits. If you’ve already been deported, you’re eligible to apply to re-enter if your parent or child is a citizen or permanent resident, or if you are DREAMer and were deported as a minor …

After six years, you’d have to renew the status, which is dependent on maintaining a steady work history, having a clean criminal record, and paying another $500 fine.

Four years after that (10 years after initially attaining “registered provisional” status), you could apply for permanent residency (aka a Green Card). That step requires showing constant work history, constant presence in the United States, continuous tax payments, clean criminal record, and knowledge of English and civics, as well as paying another $1,000 fine.

Three years after that you’d be eligible to become a citizen. So the recognition-to-citizenship process takes a total of 13 years and requires $2,000 in fines from each adult affected.

Judis worries that immigration will be a boon for businesses but not low-wage workers:

The overall effect of the reforms—which would establish a new labor status for most of the undocumented workers and speed the grant of green cards to a backlog of applicants—will inevitably increase the supply of labor at a time when many Americans are unemployed. Of course, the 11 million undocumented workers are already here, and will no longer be subject to the most egregious kind of exploitation, but they will also no longer be segregated into specialized parts of the labor force and will instead be thrust into the mainstream labor market, where they will compete with native-born workers.

Among Frum’s observations:

Republicans want to postpone voting rights for illegal immigrants as long as possible. Unlike some of the more gullible right-wing pundits, congressional Republicans hold few illusions about how the present-day illegals will vote. Under the deal, voting rights wouldn’t begin to arrive until 2027.

Rubio has put out an FAQ on the bill. One part worth highlighting:

Q: Does this provide any special recognition for the LGBT community.

No. This bill contains no special provisions for the LGBT community.

Paradoxically, I think the DOMA cases hurt us here. Some Democrats are leery of backing immigration equality for the foreign spouses of married gay Americans because they argue that if DOMA falls, then the fight is over. But DOMA may not fall; and gay couples are living apart and in fear and distress and in a diaspora right now. There’s a chance it could emerge in the Amendment process, as Senator Leahy has pledged. But it’s particularly dismaying to see Chuck Schumer let us down on this. He knows the cruelty and pain this causes – and yet still chooses to punt.